It feels like old home week

We had the pleasure of Karen and Brian visiting us last week. They joined us in Punta Gorda last year but we were on a dock for most of their visit. Being on a mooring ball was a new experience for them. What a whirlwind it was. Also on Sunday, our friends that we traveled with last year, Bill and Michael arrived in BootKey Harbor aboard Aquila (44 ft. Brewer sail boat). Two days later Jocelyn and Dee, a couple we met at Burnt Store Marina this year arrived aboard Tender (40 ft. Mainship power boat). It felt so good to have so much family and friends together.

The fish we caught - Brian, Sheila, Bob and Karen

The kid’s first full day in Florida, we chartered a fishing boat for a half day just for the four of us. The weather was perfect, with a light breeze and calm water. Our captain, JJ, promised we would not go back to the dock without enough fish for dinner and he did not disappoint. Chartering a private boat was a bit more expensive than joining a regular fishing charter boat that takes 12 or more people but it was well worth it. JJ suggested that we start the day at 11:00 am because the fish were running in the early afternoon. Our goal was to learn a bit more about fishing and to catch some yellow tailed snappers – delicious eating. The first few hours we caught a variety of non-edible/protected fish which JJ slapped on the side of the boat to give them a headache and then threw them back in. The headache was to discourage them from eating our bait. We caught grunts, purple tang, parrot fish (in a rainbow of colors), remora (which usually attach themselves to sharks) and numerous snapper that were too small to keep.

Bob and Captain JJ

JJ threw out three bags of chum to attract the fish. He also used oatmeal which worked equally as well. Around 3:30 pm, the snapper started running and we ended up catching 19 that were large enough to keep. We went back to the marina (Skipjacks) and JJ cleaned the fish for us. We ended up with enough to give JJ some for his dinner and still had enough for two dinners for the four of us plus leftovers to make fish taco for lunch for me and Bob. Brain was definitely the biggest winner in the fish catching department. But we were all winners, spending the day together.

Tuesday the weather was perfect for a trip out to Sombrero Reef to go snorkeling. We had purchased two sets of snorkeling gear on sale at West Marine for guests so we were ready to share the experience with Brian and Karen. Our friends Michael and Bill joined us on Her Diamond for the six mile trip out to the reef. You can’t anchor near the reef but there are about ten mooring balls that you can tie up to while you are snorkeling. Last time we were at the reef there was no current so I was a bit surprised to find current that made it challenging to swim out to the lighthouse. We did find a lovely coral spot with lots of fish fairly close to the boat. Once we had tired ourselves out, we had lunch on the boat and threw some oatmeal in so that we had a virtual aquarium right next to the boat. Thank you JJ.

Sombrero Reef light house

Karen and Brain rented a car at the Miami airport and it was such a pleasure to have access to a car for the week. We used it to get to restaurants in the evening so our bicycles got a rest for the week. The next day drove to Key West. Bob and I had just been there with David and Rhonda but we enjoyed it again seeing it through Karen and Brian’s eyes. We walked Duval Street, of course had a delicious happy hour on at Bagatelle (recommended as the best happy hour in Key West by a local who works at West Marine) and spent time at Mallory Square just before sundown. Most of the performers were the same as the time before and I think Karen and Brian enjoyed the scene.

Thursday we all needed a break from being on the move, so we took a dinghy ride over to Sombrero beach and left the kids there for a few hours while Bob fixed the generator. The impeller had disintegrated which meant that no cooling water was getting to the motor, causing it to overheat and shut down. The service manual didn’t say anything about replacing the impeller on a regular basis (so Bob assumed it was a permanent impeller) but after a call to the manufacturer we learned that they should be routinely replaced twice a year. Live and Learn. Once fixed, we joined the kids at the beach along with Michael and Bill, and spent a few hours relaxing and walking the beach. Brian enjoyed making a tent to shelter him from the burning sun and I enjoyed making sand sculptures. Their last full day, we went to Crane Point which is a nature preserve and the largest single piece of undeveloped land in Marathon. It is known for the number of birds that can be found there as well as the hammock (grove) of palm trees.

Brian and Karen at Crane Point

Bob and Karen at Crane Point.

I was so glad to have Karen and Brian come and see and experience BootKey Harbor. This is a very special place, one that feels like home. They also got to meet Michael and Bill and Jocelyn and Dee, and we had a great time being all together. All eight of us had dinner together at Hurricanes and sang with the keyboard player who honored most of our song requests but made many of them sound the same – we didn’t care.

Sea Turtle sand sculpture

After they left, we had the bottom of the boat cleaned from all the sea life that begins to grow on anything left in the water. We thought we would then leave the next day for the Dry Tortugas. But as they say, man plans and G-d laughs. The weather just didn’t seem to be cooperating with heavy wind due Wednesday and Thursday of this week and heavier winds due Wednesday and Thursday of next week. Since we are not on a schedule and not in a rush, we decided to wait one more week in the hope we can get a decent weather window that will allow us to go to the Dry Tortugas and then up the Gulf Coast. We will be going out to anchor and snorkel this weekend, again if the weather cooperates, for two days at Looe Key and New Found Harbor, two places that friends have told us about. It was our original plan to stop at both places on the way to the Dry Tortugas. But, if we can go this weekend we will skip them on our way to Key West and the Dry Tortugas. Weather windows tend to be short this time of year and we would rather spend the time visiting Fort Jefferson and the crystal clear waters surrounding it.

Entrance to Bootkey Harbor

In the meantime, our friends Dee and Jocelyn are having nothing but trouble with their batteries, very reminiscent of the trouble we had when we first got to Bootkey. We are trying to be helpful and supportive not only because they are good friends, but because a few months ago this was us. The boating life style is great when everything works and nothing but aggravating when things start to break, especially if you can’t easily figure out exactly what has gone wrong. Zede (my father) would be proud of me and the knowledge I have gained about electricity and how the electrical system on the boat works, or doesn’t.

This week is the anniversary of his death so it is fitting that we are using his digital multi-meter and thinking about electricity.

Rest in Peace Dad.

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