Rockets and Really Old Stuff

From Vero Beach, we travelled to the Cocoa, FL area and anchored near town.   Cocoa has a lot of small touristy shops and restaurants.   We watched the NASA websites about a possible rocket launch and were excited to learn that one was scheduled for the evening we were in Cocoa. The area is called the space coast and Cocoa is about 10 miles from Cape Canaveral and the Space Center.  The time came near for the launch, however they experienced a problem so there was a delay of about an hour.  Once the problem was fixed, the countdown resumed.  Suddenly it looked like another sunset toward the NW from our anchorage as the rocket started to lift off.   Right before our eyes, we could clearly see it take off and fly over our heads. Oddly, a short time later, the sound arrived resembling a rumble of jets taking off.  If you are ever in the area when a launch is scheduled, you should try to watch the rocket take off, it is amazing.

From Cocoa, we stopped for one night at Port Orange at Adventure Yacht Harbor marina located in a residential area. There was not much to see in the immediate area, but they did have a good restaurant on site called “The Boondocks.” Mikey Likes It joined us for dinner. They’ve travelled with us a few days now.   Along the way, we saw a few more dolphins who chose to be our escorts along the ICW. We always enjoy their visits and never tire of their presence.

Our next stops were in the St. Augustine area.  We stayed two nights on a mooring in St. Augustine harbor and then moved to a dock at Rivers Edge Marina exploring the city from both locations.   There is a LOT to see and do in St Augustine.    This is also a location of a lot of Really OLD stuff:

  • Oldest City in the United States founded in 1565
  • Oldest wooden school house in USA
  • Oldest street in USA– Aviles Street
  • Oldest house
  • Oldest masonry fort in the continental USA, Castillo de San Marcos National Monument
  • Two beautiful old churches which we toured and gathered more historical information
  • Flagler College—originally the fancy Ponce De Leon Hotel built between 1885 and 1887 by Henry M. Flagler (railroad magnate) who instantly became charmed by St. Augustine. The hotel, now turned active college, boasts Tiffany stained glass windows, interior decorated with imported marble, carved oak, and murals painted by famous artists. Back in its heyday, the hotel had its share of famous visitors including three presidents lodged there. “Presidents stayed and the wealthy played” here. This tour is highly recommended. If Teresa lived in St. Augustine, she claims she’d sign up for a class or two in one of the college buildings.
  • Many old neighborhoods beg to be explored with numerous shopping opportunities
  • Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum constructed over 130 years ago. We climbed the 219 stairs to the very top and stepped out on to the open air catwalk. The climb proved well worth the effort as we looked out over the harbor and saw Sanctuary peacefully moored in Matanzas Bay, south of the Bridge of Lions.

St. Augustine Lighthouse is one of the prettiest on the trip with its bold black and white stripes crowned with a red top.  Inside the lighthouse keeper’s home, they have interactive displays for the young and young at heart.  There were a number of school kids on site experiencing the lighthouse for their field trip.  Their bright yellow shirts on the winding stairways made for an interesting contrast.

One of the best shopping stops was the Sailors Exchange—finally a guy store!   They have new and used boat parts of every vintage you might imagine.

We were delighted to welcome Teresa’s sister Karen in St. Augustine. She’ll be travelling and exploring with us for a few days. From St. Augustine, we plan to move up the coast. Karen plans to head home from Fernandina Beach.

Rocket Launch

 

Dolphin Escort

 

Scenes from Flagler College

 

Chocolate Factory Tour

 

St Augustine Churches

St Augustine Lighthouse

Spanish Fort at St Augustine

 

Around St Augustine

 

 

S and T and Karen at Rivers Edge Marina St Augustine

Steve, Teresa and Karen at Rivers Edge Marina in St Augustine

 

 

St Augustine Teresa

 

 

 

St Augustine Sunset

St Augustine Sunset

 

 

All The Lonely Pools

Leaving Ft Lauderdale on the way to Stuart, we passed many mansions and super yachts.  As we passed each mansion thinking it must be the biggest; soon another once appeared that was even bigger.  The varied architecture and designs are quite the show.  Each mansion and even the “small” homes have their own pool, many infinity pools, where the water flows over the edge.  Some pools featured large plastic blowup toys.  Once in a while you would see a caretaker cleaning the pool.  Mostly it was just lonely pools one after another with no one swimming in them.   We thought since the pools looked lonely maybe we should stop and pay them a visit, but that might not have worked out well. Instead, we chose to just pass by, dream, and take photos.

Some of the large yachts we saw are available for charter.  If you google the name of the yacht, often times a page comes up with the specifications and price for charter.

 

Mariner III

Mariner III

Here’s information about one of those—a beautiful classic yacht called the Mariner III

“Mariner III is an absolute classic 1920’s yacht that has been superbly maintained over the years by loving owners.

Mariner III was built in 1926 for Captain James Griffiths of Griffiths Steamship Company. This classic 122′ fantail motor yacht, was designed by Ted Geary. Traveling to China to select the lumber for her construction, Captain Griffiths chose 3″ teak planking for the hull and very strong wood, called yacal, for framing. Originally named “SueJa III,” Captain Griffiths used the yacht to travel up and down the West Coast

Her reputation for excellence is known throughout New York, New England, Florida and the Caribbean. She has enjoyed guests on board from Jacques Cousteau, the Rockefellers, Harrison Ford, Bruce Willis, Robert Deniro, Don Henley, Jimmy Buffett and Madonna, in addition to a long list of corporate giants from across the country. You might recognize her from magazine ads for Ralph Lauren and Maybelline, fashion and travel editorials in The New York Times Magazine and many layouts in Victoria’s Secret catalogs.”

 Lady Kathryn

 

Another one was the   LADY KATHRYN V  which can be chartered for $450,000 per week.

“Constructed under the supervision of Moran Yacht & Ship and launched in 2011 by the Lurssen Shipyard, the 200 Ft. (61m) LADY KATHRYN V features spacious accommodations for 12 guests in 6 ensuite staterooms as well as comfortable and elegant interior living spaces and ample outdoor dining and deck space.

Due to her impressive and spacious tender garage, LADY KATHRYN V has two sea kayaks, two seabobs, two jet skis, two stand up paddle boards, inflatable tubes, water skis, wakeboards, and two 23 foot tenders.  She boasts a full gym. There is a full dive setup complete with a compressor so you will always be ready to go diving.  There is even a golf mat and clubs, so you can practice your swing on your own personal driving range.”

  • Leo Vecellio – Yacht
  • Yacht Name: Lady Kathryn (Named after owners wife)
  • Yacht Length: 62 m (203 ft)
  • Guests: 12 in 6 cabins
  • Crew: 15 in 7 cabins
  • Yacht Value: US$ 60 million
  • Owners Name: Leo Vecellio
  • Leo Vecellio Net Worth: US$ 400 m

 

Mega Yachts Along The Way

Of Course, The Motors Must Match The Color Of The Boat

 

Mansions Along The Way

 

Even mansions in Florida get termites, and when they do the cure is to tent the structure.  Once completely tented, poison gas is pumped inside and left for 24 hours.   Then the structure is uncovered and ventilated.   The gas does not stick to anything or leave residue, so once completely ventilated it is safe to go back inside.

 

Even Mansions get Termites in FL

Even Mansions get Termites in FL, tenting to kill the termites

 

Even Mansions get Termites in FL

Even Mansions get Termites in FL, tenting to kill the termites

 

From Stuart we traveled to Vero Beach, which is much more “normal” with regular houses and boats.   The marina in Vero is more Old Florida style with a nice park next to it.   There is a free bus that will pick you up just in front of the docks to take you to town.  We took the bus and enjoyed a St. Patty’s dinner special of a Reuben-sauerkraut sandwich at Kelly’s Irish Pub.  While dining, we enjoyed bagpipes (well Teresa did anyway) and an elderly gentleman on the squeezebox singing favorites such as “My Wild Irish Rose” and “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” It is a short bike ride to the beach on the Atlantic Ocean.  We rode over there and waded in the waves looking for shells and sea glass.  Even though we’ve been experiencing cooler weather, the water felt great. I am starting to understand why it is nick named Velcro beach.  Once here it sticks, and you do not want to leave.

 

Light house

Light House at Jupiter Inlet by Hobe Sound

 

 

 

St. Patrick’s Day Already

 

While staying in Fort Lauderdale, we found out they celebrate St. Patrick’s Day the Saturday before the actual date.  They have vendors and booths, bands on the stage, and a parade.   We had to see the parade because we consider St. Patrick’s Day an important holiday since our favorite daughter was born on that day.  Happy Birthday early. Amanda!!

The parade featured many bands, fire trucks, police vehicles, Star Wars, and even an elephant. They also had lots of bag pipes which is great if you like that sort of thing …

We toured the Stranahan house while in Ft Lauderdale.  Mr. Stranahan and his wife were instrumental in starting the settlement in this area.  The tour of the house proved interesting and informative. Teresa became so interested in the history of the mercantile turned homestead for Frank and Ivy Stranahan she’s now reading a book called Mystic Sweet Communion, by Jane Kirkpatrick. The book is a historical fiction based on the Stranahan’s life in the community along with their unusual association with the Seminole Indians in the area. Fascinating story based on facts with behind the scenes tales of how Ivy become a teacher, married a much older man (Frank) and ended up enlightening Indian children as well.

From Ft. Lauderdale we traveled past West Palm Beach seeing more and more mega mansions and yachts.  We anchored to ride out the thunderstorms, heavy constant winds, and rain pelting on the decks overnight. Next stop:  Stuart, Florida for a dock at Loggerhead marina. Miss Bailey came with us and we share the same dock.

EXCITEMENT on the DOCKS last night. We are truly thankful for God’s hand of protection last evening … A fugitive decided he’d avoid the marina locked gate, so he jumped into the water, swam to our neighbor’s boat (which was quite a distance from where he jumped in), climbed up a precarious swim platform, broke in their back door, and proceeded to warm himself inside their boat. Which, by the way, we share the same dock!

Upon returning, our friends found a shirtless “Goldilocks” in their bed. 911 called after they immediately evacuated their vessel. Soon our docks became a wall of armed police and a canine. Culprit taken away in handcuffs with only one expensive red shoe in tow.

Thank you, God, for our safety and the safety of our neighbors! We realize how the story could have had a much more tragic ending.

 

 

 

fire ladder flag

Flag over parade route flying from fire truck ladders

 

fire ladder flag

Flag over parade route flying from fire truck ladders

 

St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Ft Lauderdale

 

Stranahan House

 

 

 

S and T on Sanctuary

S and T on Sanctuary

 

Sanctuary in Ft Lauderdale on the New River

Sanctuary in Ft Lauderdale on the New River

 

 

 

From Quiet Anchorages to the Heart of the City – Mangroves to Concrete

We left Marathon after completing the repair and waiting out a week of high winds.  We traveled along the ICW to a very quiet and calm anchorage near Key Largo in Tarpon Bay.  Our next stop was Key Biscayne Bite and an anchorage near Miami in Biscayne Bay.   This anchorage was not as quiet with airplanes going overhead, many passing boats, and lots of continuous activity.   This wasn’t even the weekend yet. I believe the motto down here is: Every day is Saturday! With binoculars, we could spy on the Miami Race Week being held across the bay. It was fun to watch all the different classes/groups of racers.

The journey from Biscayne Bay took us right past the Miami city skyline, which we enjoyed the night before while anchored in the bay.   This route passed Miami, Miami Beach Hollywood, and many more beach towns.  We passed the Miami ship terminal and saw many cruise ships in port.  In the Keys, we saw nice boats, but in Miami the boats just keep getting bigger and bigger and bigger still.  Many of their “dinghies” are big enough to take a long trip on.  Many bridges along the ICW had enough clearance for Sanctuary to pass under, but many required us to wait for the next opening.   To contact the bridge, you must call the bridge operator on channel 9 on the VHF ship’s radio.   We quickly learned you must use the exact name of the bridge when hailing them or they will not answer you.  Once you make contact with the bridge tender, they let you know when the next opening can be completed.  After Biscayne Bay, the ICW is narrow with large houses and tall condo towers on both sides.   Since the passageway is narrow, there is not much concern about waves from the wind, however passing boat wakes are another story.

As we neared Ft. Lauderdale, the amount of traffic continued to increase.  We passed more cruise ships and mega yachts.   Our planned destination was Cooley’s Marina up the New River in Ft. Lauderdale.    Traveling up the New River is a lesson in patience and an experience in MAJOR congestion, or insanity whichever you prefer. Congestion every inch and turn of the river: tour boats, fishing boats, all kinds of boats very big and small are everywhere!  Navigating through New River calls to mind one word: INSANITY!!! Later we were informed we’d arrived the first day of the busiest time of year—first day of Spring Break (Fort Lauderdale is the mecca for spring break,  Saint Patrick’s Day festivities and Parade).

We needed to plan the arrival for slack tide to dock at Cooley’s (amidst old historic Ft. Lauderdale). Since the tide is rising or falling, the current in the river can be significant making docking a challenge. Once the tide reaches its high or low level, the current flow slows and is called slack tide.  Quite the learning curve for us Northerners. Thankfully, our timing was good and docking was a non-event.  Rates are extremely low for this municipal marina (ask for Boat US discount which took ours down to $1.16/foot). We are almost directly under a drawbridge which operates 24-7 with few restrictions during rush hours. Whoosh-Clunk-Rattle as traffic flow comes and goes. Swoosh-Rock-Roll as boats pass behind our stern. Some going MUCH faster than the no wake zone suggests.

We had a nice dinner with the crews from two other looper boats traveling with us at this time (Miss Bailey – Myron and Linda, Mikey Likes It – Mike and Joell).  Once docked, we saw large mega yachts being towed up the river time and time again.  They do this due to the very narrow, congested water way. We plan to stay a few days and then continue traveling north along the coast.

 

 

7 mile bridge

Leaving Marathon going under 7 mile bridge. Just before the bridge was the southern most point of the Great Loop for Sanctuary.

 

7 mile bridge

Leaving Marathon 7 mile bridge.

 

7 mile bridge

Leaving Marathon going under 7 mile bridge.

 

Quiet anchorage

Quiet anchorage in Key Largo – Tarpon Bay

 

Cutting thru mangroves

Traveling through Mangroves following Miss Bailey

 

Cutting thru mangroves

Traveling through Mangroves

 

 

Sunset Biscayne Bay

Sunset Biscayne Bay

 

Miami at night

Miami skyline at night

 

Miami Race Week across the bay

 

Buildings and scenes along the ICW from Miami to Ft Lauderdale

 

Big yachts and even bigger yachts

 

Port Everglades

 

Ft. Lauderdale the New River – CONGESTION……

 

 

 

 

Weather front headed this way, so staying in Marathon

Engine problems fixed and we’d planned to leave for Key Largo today.  However there is a front headed this way with high winds, so we will stay in paradise for a few more days.

 

Boot Key harbor 4

Marathon— our month here is almost over so it will be time to start traveling again

When we arrived in Boot Key Harbor, Marathon Florida, it seemed like there would be a lot to keep us busy.  Sombrero Dockside Marina nestled mid-way in the Florida Keys appears somewhat rustic, 70s style. Roy, David, and Dennis run the marina and their word is the last word. Two of the employees have boats right in the harbor either anchored or on a mooring ball. We had planned to have visits by friends and family at Sombrero—and greatly enjoyed each of those visits. Sombrero and Marathon did not disappoint us or our visitors. We have met many people and characters while here. The Keys are an experience in and of itself unlike any other.

Pidgeon Key hosted an art and craft festival including a fun Beatlemania concert.  Andy will not let Lindsay forget that she couldn’t stay awake for the final Hey Jude number. During part of the event, a famous artist Robert Wyland (more commonly known as Wyland), drew his amazing marine pictures.   We have been to a few of his galleries and love his art.  It was really impressive to see him draw and interact with the people watching.   The print was sold once he completed it with the money going to a charity.   Later in the week, we used our ticket from the event to get discounts for entrance to Pigeon Key. A group from the marina loaded up dinghies and traveled to the Key.   Pigeon Key was a main housing area for the men that built the original railway to Key West from the main land. Henry Flagler, being the driving force behind the creation and building the railway.  The railway was developed into a roadway for cars and still in use until the early 1980’s when the new road way was opened.

We explored Boot Key which is remote and run down since the bridge to it was removed.  It is hard to believe there is such a rundown area just a short distance from the busy Boot Key Harbor. We saw shacks, sunken boats, and a work-in-progress submarine.

Horizon Chaser, a boat from our marina, took us out to the reef by Sombrero Lighthouse for snorkeling where we saw barracuda, Angel Fish, Parrot Fish, and Trumpet Fish.

There are a multitude of good restaurants here—so many to choose from and so little time to experience them.  One of our favorite eateries showcases Lobster Rueben, Stone Crab Claws, Raw Oysters and much more, including a fabulous view of the gulf.  What more could anyone ask for?

Of course, we had to tour Key West visiting the places with dollar bills all over the walls and ceilings.  Teresa wanted to visit Ernest Hemmingway’s house, so we toured that on our visit with Henry and Mary.   We saw the 6-toed cats and learned much on the docent-led tour of the house and grounds.  Most impressive to Teresa was the office area where Ernest Hemmingway wrote most of his material.  We stopped for pictures at the southernmost point with Lindsay and Andy.  When we went with Andy and Lindsay, we rode the bus there and back.  Seeing all the characters that got on the bus for the journey proved to be phenomenal entertainment all by itself. Each evening we enjoyed spirited games of Up & Down the River.

Next, Bob and Vicki joined us aboard Sanctuary. We felt spoiled because they had a car; a vehicle with 4 wheels going over 15 mph. They previously stayed in their RV in Marathon visiting Herbie’s Chowder House; naturally they wanted us to try out the restaurant. We did and were not disappointed. Herbie’s has been part of the Keys dining scene since the 1940s making it the oldest operating restaurant in Marathon. We drove around a bit to find the infamous miniature Key deer found only in the Keys. One adorable creature came right up to Teresa as she held out her hand. He licked her hand allowing her to pet his small head and back. Most evenings ended in a lively game of Mexican train. We also taught all our guests at different times (Bob & Vicki, Henry & Mary, and Lindsay & Andy) the new game called Up & Down the River learned from another looper, Max, on Lazy Susan. We met Max while staying in Dunedin during the month of December. Watching nightly amazing sunsets as the harbor twinkle lights come on is always a highlight and something we look forward to witnessing.

On the way to Key West, the four of us saw Fat Albert (also known as TARS – Tethered Aerostat Radar System)—the blimp used to monitor sea and air traffic in the area.  On the way back, a storm approached and the blimp was lowered down to ground level.  You can see the blimp for many miles throughout the Keys. Bob & Vicki also drove us to Lobster Trap Art Gallery located in Islamorada featuring funky, eclectic, Keys variety with picture frames created from actual crab pot/lobster wooden boxes. I’d highly recommend this on your list of must-see galleries. They also featured local artist paintings and photography.

There is a great beach here (Sombrero Beach) rated high on the list of best beaches in the Keys. We’ve traveled to it by dinghy several times boasting clean, white sand with the perfect pull up for dinghies. Not many shells, but the water is oh so beautiful greenish-blue and warm. Another nice beach is Bahia Honda State park which also has an area good for snorkeling.  Both beaches complete with coconut palm trees and an abundance of white sand with floating sea weed concealing a multitude of treasures.

Boot Key Harbor cruisers meet on the VHF radio every morning at 9:00 am.  Many mornings we turned on the VHF to channel 68 to get local news and updates.  On the net, there is news of local events, a time to ask for help, Buy-Sell-Trade or Give Away, trivia, and ends with final business.   One of the mornings, a boater offered a like new inflatable kayak. We now own a bright green/neon tandem kayak we’ll use to explore some of the more remote areas on the trip! The net and gathering area at the city marina foster a wonderful sense of community for boaters here.

Manatees have visited the marina and swam right by our boat.  One stopped to sample the water spray from a boat next to us.    They are fun to watch, but very slow and have a face only their mother could love.   Many jelly fish float around the boats. They have a magical way of twirling topside, then they spin on their side dipping lower in the water then re-surfacing again. Fascinating to watch them especially for us northerners. I am amazed at all the unfamiliar bird and wildlife present. Almost every day it seems as though we spot a different species and need to consult our bird resource pamphlet. Egrets, ibis, many types of herons, pelicans, to name a few can be spotted in the Keys and Florida. Not to mention, jellyfish, dolphins, and a wide variety of iguanas (big and small). Note: Teresa is not fond of the iguanas AT ALL (not matter how small or large)!

We are very thankful for friends and family, just being together, satisfied to enjoy one another’s company. Friends come and leave. If only for a brief period. ‘Tis a gift. It will be sad to leave this area and community of boaters.  It is time for us to start moving north; we understand why some never leave. We have many more ports to visit and adventures to experience.  At present, we await a part to complete an engine repair. Hopefully the part arrives as scheduled and then we plan to travel toward Key Largo starting Friday morning.

 

 

 

Wyland

Wyland at Pigeon Key craft show, Andy Schwenke in back ground

 

Sombrero Dockside Marina

 

Manatee visit –they like to play in the streams of water from boat air conditioners

 

Pigeon Key

 

Dinghy trip to explore Boot Key, kinda of scary back here…..

 

 

Sombrero Light House 2

Sombrero Lighthouse on the reef where we snorkled

 

Sombrero Light House

Sombrero Lighthouse on the reef where we snorkled

Scenes from Key West

 

Sunset at  Sunset Grill

 

Hemmingway House

 

Sombrero Beach dinghy parking area

Sombrero Beach dinghy parking area

 

Star Fish we saw while snorkeling

Star Fish we saw while snorkeling

 

Keys Diner

Herbie’s Diner with Bob and Vicki

Key Deer – a naturally small deer; these are full grown

 

Kayak

Our “new” Kayak

 

Jelly Fish

Jelly Fish

 

Jelly Fish 2

Jelly Fish

 

 

Fat Albert Flying

Fat Albert Flying

 

Fat Albert Grounded

Fat Albert Grounded

They are filming for Ford Lincoln Navigator cars in the area and  one day they were filming on 7 mile bridge.  The crew stages the equipment across the street from us in front of the country club.   The girls were watching to see if Mathew McConaughey would be here for the event.

Ford Lincoln crew sets up for filming

Ford Lincoln crew sets up for filming

 

 

 

Marathon—we’re in the Keys!!!

We are staying here in Marathon, at Sombrero Dockside Marina, for the month of February and plan to have a few visitors.  Years ago, our family and two children visited Key West. So it’s been a long time since we’ve been in this neck of the country. Sometime during our February stay, we will take a bus back to Key West to see what has changed in that part of the Florida eclectic part.

Sombrero feels rustic–a type of marina you’d expect in the Keys. The marina is well protected from any angle of wind with beautiful views of the harbor and Country Club golf course. We met several boaters; some who have been on the Loop. Folks are friendly here and include us in their plans. For instance, two of the guys—Dan and Craig—celebrated their birthdays the day after we arrived. They asked if we’d like to join them at a restaurant grill for .35 cent wing night and happy hour. We joined them and about 12 of us ended up together munching on wings. After dinner, we gathered together on the dock by our boats where a restaurant used to thrive. Singing happy birthday to the birthday boys, we enjoyed homemade pecan and berry pies–outdoors in our flip flops and shorts in February!

Sombrero Marina is directly across the street from a country club and golf course. The first night here, those same boaters asked if we’d like to join them at 4:30 for appetizers and drinks at the country club. We didn’t need to be members. Some of the guys had golfed earlier and invited the rest of us to join them.

We are in Boot Key Harbour which is one of the largest anchorages areas we have seen yet.  Many of the boats stay on the moorings for a long time; others anchor near the mooring field.  There are well over two hundred mooring balls and many anchored boats.  Some exhibit a very lived-in, somewhat forsaken appearance. At the sun sets, it is quite a sight to witness the boats with their anchor lights twinkling in the distance.

 

 

dolphin escort to Marathon

Dolphin escort to Marathon

 

 

Seven Mile Bridge

 

Marathon  – Boot Key Harbor

 

 

Next up on the blog: Key West, Pigeon Key, Visitors from up north and exploring…..

Shark River, Little Pine Key, and on to Marathon

Shark River Anchorage was very secluded and completely off the grid. There is not even a hint of cell or data coverage in that area.  The anchorage was a large area that we shared with three or four boats.  The tide in that area was almost 4’ which resulted in a lot of mucky, muddy land at low tide.  You might wonder, what’s a body to do when there’s absolutely no modern technology available? We read a lot, Teresa did some journaling, grill, and bake some. It’s amazing what you can come up with when left to your own imagination.

On the way into the anchorage, we had a dolphin escort by a mother and child dolphin.   That was really great to see the two of them swimming on our bow wave.  The mother had a tear on her dorsal fin which must have been hit by a boat.

We took the dinghy and explored up the river finding lots of mangrove islands and branches. Due to all the mangroves and the way they grow with their spiny roots growing into the water, there is no place to bring the dinghy to shore or walk on land.  It would be very easy to get lost in this area called 10,000 island, but the real number is much higher.  Our trail was marked with bread crumbs on the GPS making it possible to get back to Sanctuary. We spent three nights here waiting for a good travel day to move on to the Keys.  It was nice to chill and not have any schedule.  We did see a large military jet fly over which was quite the contrast to all the mangrove swamps.

The stars were amazing, because it was really dark. Without a moon or any city lights, it really so dark you could hardly see your hand in front of your face.  So very calm, still, almost an eerie feeling being in complete silence other than occasional birds and hoot owls.

 

The next stop was Little Pine Key.  The water was so clear we could stand on the bow and actually see our anchor and check its location.  With the water being so crystal clear, you get an unrealistic notion that the bottom is closer than it actually is. We took the dinghy around the bay seeing and lots of different plants and sea life growing on the bottom.

We noticed a blimp that seemed to always be flying to the south of the anchorage.  Research informed us that it was a Tethered Aerostat Radar System (TARS)—part of an Air Force program keeping watch on air and sea traffic from the Caribbean Sea to Tampa Bay. It is used to help monitor drug trafficking.  The blimp is called “Fat Albert” and floats at 10,000 up to 15,000 feet above Cudjoe Key.

 

We stayed at Little Pine Key until the dock we reserved in Marathon was available.  It was a short trip under the Seven Mile Bridge into Boot Key Harbor to Sombrero Dockside Marina, which is in Marathon.  On the way we saw dolphins, a huge Sea Turtle, and of course lots of crab pots.  They are sprinkled everywhere in this area and do not have a pattern of being in a line like we have seen before. There are definite hazards so you have to be on constant watch for them. Getting a line from a crab pot caught in your propeller could cause big-time problems.

 

Shark River Panorama

Exploring Shark River

 

Mangroves in Shark River

Mangrove swamps

 

Mangroves in Shark River 2

Mangroves in Shark River

 

Mangroves in Shark River 6

Exploring Mangroves in Shark River

 

Mangroves in Shark River 5

Exploring Mangroves in Shark River

Dolphin Escort and Baby Dolphin

 

Air Force Jet flying over Shark River

Air Force Jet flying over Shark River

 

Air Force Jet flying over Shark River 2

Air Force Jet flying over Shark River

 

Sunrise in Shark River

Sunrise in Shark River

 

Shark River Anchorage

Shark River Anchorage

 

Sanctuary in Shark River

Sanctuary in Shark River

 

Mangroves in Shark River 3

Some kind of Ibis? bird in mangroves, not sure what it was???

Swamp Art

 

Sun set at Little Pine Key was amazing…

 

 

Anchor at Little Pine Key very clear view from boat

Anchor at Little Pine Key very clear view from boat

 

Anchor at Little Pine Key very clear view from boat 2

Anchor at Little Pine Key very clear view from boat

 

Blimp

Blimp flying over the keys

 

Crab Pots every where

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everglade City

The wind finally subsided and we started traveling out into the gulf toward Everglade City and the 10,000 islands.  As we were leaving Marco Island, we passed Witte’s condo and Henk saw us out in the gulf with binoculars.  The ride to Everglade City was lumpy due to left over waves from the strong wind over the week end, but thankfully we made it in safely.  The Admiral appeared a bit green behind the gills—she was mighty happy for her feet to touch the ground. Our trip was a long winding route through the mangrove islands into Everglade City.  We docked the first night at the Rod and Gun Club—an old building built in the 1800’s.  Basic amenities: electric only. There is a spacious dining area on the deck and a dining room inside.  The food was very good. It is a must see if you are in the area and enjoy old architecture.   This area is known as the Stone Crab capital.   Lots of crabbing/fishing boats going by creating wave action at the dock even in the early morning hours.  We were the only boat at their dock. Staying in this area is like going back in time.  No big box stores, no traffic congestion, but lots of air boat attractions to tour the Everglades. Several eateries and available and places to purchase fresh seafood. Another redeeming value: Ice Cream shop!

After one night, we moved a ½ mile further inland to Everglade Isle RV Luxury Retreat.  The RV resort also has a marina. This is a whole new dimension to “camping.”   They only allow class A motor coaches, and all of the ones we saw were very high end.   Each camp site is exquisitely manicured and landscaped. There were many docks to choose from since there were only two other boats docked when we arrived. Bill, the manager, took us around the grounds on a golf cart.

Since this is air boat tour land, we decided to sign up for a ride going deep into the mangrove swamps through tunnels of mangrove trees.   After a while, the landscape opened up to a Saw Grass swamp. It would be easy to get lost out there since one mangrove swamp looks similar to the adjoining one.

We purchased stone crab claws at one of the local markets, and prepared dinner back at the boat.  Stone Crab Claws, fries, salad and Key Lime pie on the boat … can’t get much better than that!

Tomorrow we plan to head to an anchorage in the Shark River, and then on to Marathon in the Keys weather permitting. As interesting as Everglade City is, the Keys call out our name.

 

 

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While we were out in the gulf two terns landed on the top of the canvas top making an interesting shadow.

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One of the terns that were on Sanctuary’s canvas top

 

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Mangrove Islands on the way into Everglade City

 

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Mangrove Islands on the way into Everglade City

 

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White Pelicans

 

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White Pelicans

 

Scenes from Everglade City

 

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Palm tree branches in Black and White

Rod and Gun Club in Everglades City

 

Everglades Air Boat Ride

 

RV Park

 

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Sanctuary at Everglade City RV Resort

 

 

 

Marco Island—Alligators and Wind

Just a few miles south of Naples, you will find beautiful Marco Island—our next destination.   We docked in Naples for a few nights, so we planned to anchor in one of the bays on Marco Island.   After winding through the canals and passageways, we arrived at Smokehouse Bay.

Active Captain informed us of a dock here at the Winn Dixie grocery store, so this time we picked up supplies in the dinghy instead of walking or bicycling to the store.   We also visited a few shops in the area. Teresa found a dolphin pendant she fell in love with.  It was custom made by a resident local jeweler, and will commemorate our exciting first dolphin sightings aboard Sanctuary.

We made plans to visit with Henk and Thressa (from our local marina in Muskegon, Michigan) who are staying on Marco Island.   Henk, our resident Tour Guide, wanted to take us to see alligators. The four of us traveled by car to an area near the Everglades Big Cypress Swamp.  As if on cue, we spotted gators sunning themselves.  We stopped by Everglade City and saw the marina we plan to travel to next (Rod & Gun Club), and visited Goodland’s fish market.   Purchasing peel and eat shrimp and homemade Key Lime pie from the fish market, we knew we’d have a delightful dinner.  We’re getting accustomed to reasonably priced seafood and the like—it’s gonna be tough to return to northern food. Both of us seem to be automatically attracted to down south cooking. Henk made a brief stop at the condo they are staying in where we enjoyed the magnificent view of the gulf right from their balcony.   When Sanctuary heads south, we plan to wave at them as we travel past their condo.

We listened to Calvary Church Internet and Pastor Jim Samra tell a story about Ruby Bridges, the first black child to desegregate the all-white elementary school in Louisiana. Quite the moving sermon. You can listen to the whole story at: calvarygr.org.

After listening to Pastor Jim, we hopped in the dinghy and motored over to the Winn Dixie dinghy dock. Walked around Winn Dixie, across the bridge, and over to a local church on the canal by where we are anchored. So we went by dinghy to church Sunday morning!   Pastor Kevin and the congregation welcomed us with open arms. Most were surprised to learn we traveled to Marco Island by boat. What a beautiful building and right on the water too. Inside the walls and ceiling have a light-colored wood, lots of windows with a view out of palm trees blowing. At the beginning of the service, Pastor Kevin asked that all visitors raise their hands. Then he asked us to stand and give our names and where we are from. Lots of visitors present—several from Wisconsin, Minnesota, and all over. We were the only ones from Michigan who came there on a boat. In fact, we received quite the joyous recognition! Pastor Kevin Koenig is a very alive and lively character—a bundle of energy.

 

NOTE: The Ship of the Church symbol. We found this to be very interesting:

For Christians, since the days of the apostles, THE SHIP has been a symbol for the Christian Church. The mast and yardarm form a simple CROSS (in wood) which stands for Jesus who saved us by giving Himself on a cross that we might be forgiven.

The CHI RHO (in metal) is a combination of the first two Greek letters of the name Christ, meaning “The Anointed One” or “The Messiah.” The WAVES symbolize the troubles and difficulties of life on earth. The SAILS are filled with wind, a symbol of the Holy Spirit, which empowers the Church. Thus, the Christian Church, under the Cross of Christ carries the faithful safely across the troubled seas of life to heaven.

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After the Trumpet Voluntary Medley postlude, folks gathered around welcoming us. We shook Pastor Kevin’s hand, met his wife, and presented him with one of Teresa’s books—Life is: Good, Fragile, Precious—Loving yourself so you can love others.

Later in the day, the wind began to build as was predicted.  Forecast: rain and heavy winds. We saw LOTS of wind, but little rain.   White caps and wind gusts over 35 mph displayed themselves in the small bay.   Sanctuary rode out the wind with no problem. We are thankful for the large Mantus anchor that held us secure and for our prayer warriors carrying us through the night into the next day.

 

 

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Dinghy Dock at Winn Dixie grocery store

Alligators 

 

Scenes from Marco Island

 

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Selfie with Witte’s at condo

 

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Teresa’s new dolphin pendant