Our Last Days in Bootkey and Hello West Coast

After Karen and Brian left the boat felt so much bigger – but we sure do miss them.

Her Diamond reflected in the water of a quiet anchorage. Thank you Michael for the great picture.

We kept planning a departure for the Dry Tortugas but the weather kept disappointing. Instead, when we had a two day window we sailed off to Newfound Harbor. This is a beautiful anchorage just 20 miles due west of Marathon.

Bootkey Harbor at Night. The anchor lights add to the beauty of the stars. This is a moon rising on the harbor.

There are many anchorages just a day sail away from Marathon, which is why so many people stay in or use Marathon as a home base for extended periods. On our way, two friends came by on their boats and greeted us – I felt so at home, almost like I was on Lake Erie. Aquila and Tender came with us and we picked up Blue Moon along the way. The anchorage is right next to the entrance to a canal.

David and Pat in front boat and Michael and Bill in the second boat.

After we were all settled we had a dinghy flotilla up the canal to a Tiki Bar right off highway 1 on Ramrod Key. What a great place. There was a live band and great food. We ate, drank and danced until way after cruiser’s midnight (9:00 pm). We motored back to the boats in the dark and all made it safely.

The next morning we sailed over to Looe Key to snorkel. At first I was a bit disappointed because we saw far more fish at Sombrero Light, but that was before we saw the Goliath Groupers which we had heard about. As we were swimming out to what seemed to be shallower water, guys on a fishing boat that was moored at the reef yelled to us to come over and see the groupers. There under their boat was an 11 foot Goliath Grouper and two smaller ones. Smaller by goliath terms is still 4-6 feet long. They are amazing when you are underwater and staring them in the face. After a bit we went back to our boats to warm up and there under Tender was another Goliath just hanging out. Jocelyn was a bit timid to climb their boarding ladder with the Goliath moving about, but we diverted its attention and she boarded safely. After snorkeling, Aquila and Tender headed out and we stayed for a while to make water.

Coming back to Marathon felt great. Although we continued trying to plan for a trip to the Dry Torugas, it was not meant to be. Our days were full with exercise, planning, bocce ball, learning to play cribbage, volunteering at the seafood festival and at the school, bike rides, group dinners and socializing.

Bob at Seafood Festival - can't lose him in that bright orange volunteer shirt.

Sheila at Seafood Festival - with a friend

Exercise in the tiki hut - Shelly, Jane, Jeanette, Bret, Bob, Theresa and Karen

Bocce ball with Bret and Theresa (our teachers).

An evening of cribbage aboard Aquila - Jocelyn, Bill and Michael on Aquila.

We had multiple goodbye dinners as each time we thought we were going to leave (and were ready) the weather changed.

Bob, Sheila, Jocelyn, Dee, Bill and Michael.

On Sunday March 24th, we finally left the mooring ball and set out for the west coast of Florida and the Everglades. With mixed feelings we finally left Marathon after the original plan to stay one wee turned into two months. Together with Aquila, we set sail with the most perfect of winds: 15 knots on our beam and the sun shining. About two hours into the sail the winds started to pick up and soon the winds were just under 20 with gusts in the low to mid 20s. This was a more exhilarating sail – active sailing as I like to say. As we got in the protective lee of the Everglades the wind started to moderate some and we got to Cape Sable/Shelling anchorage around 4:00 pm. It was surprisingly calm in the anchorage and we were very close to land. We lowered the dinghy for the short ride to shore and true to its name found lots of shells on the beach. Before we went in, we saw a very large alligator sunning himself on the beach.

Alligator tracks

When we went ashore, there were tens of alligator tracks running up the beach and one large one swimming in the water parallel to the beach. The cruising guide had mentioned that we might see alligators and they were correct.

Roots up on the beach at Shelling

More cool roots

Even more roots

After a quiet night, we motor sailed on to Indian Key and anchored right off the channel. We had interesting entertainment as we watched three FWC police boats stop all of the fishing boats as they came into the channel after a day of fishing. They hid behind some mangroves and then came out and surrounded each fishing boat. We guessed that they were checking fishing licenses and the catch brought in to make sure the fishermen were within the legal quotas. I thought they might come over to us, but they didn’t. Bill and Michael rowed over for a pot luck vegetarian dinner, which was delicious and a game of RummyCube.

Sometimes anchoring can be a dirty business,

Next morning, we sailed off the anchor (our second time doing this) and we headed for Naples. The sail/motor sail was uneventful except for the dolphins that were alongside jumping out of the water. As we approached Marco Island, it was our first sighting of tall buildings in a while. There is nothing tall in Marathon. Once we got into the Naples city docks, we opened a beer and celebrated being on a dock for the first time in two months. We turned on the water and just let it run. We turned on the air-conditioning and just let it run. Oh the extravagances of being on a dock! Over the next two days at dock we washed everything to get the salt off; the rugs, the deck, topsides, mast, life jackets, and the dinghy.

A few observations:

  1. Last year we moved too much, most often every two days. This year, although we loved marathon, we stayed there a little bit too long (over 2 months).

  2. Next year we want to return to Marathon for about a month. Want to try the American Legion Sunday Brunch.

  3. Next year, we will try to get to the Dry Tortugas directly from Punta Gorda – an overnight. That will require a shorter weather window.

  4. Hope to be able to meet up with some of the wonderful people we met in Marathon this year. Many go year after year.

  5. I continue to be in awe of the wildlife around us: dolphins, turtles, fish and birds. Love those pelicans

Bird on the dock at Naples City Marina. Was not afraid of people at all.

  1. I have calmed somewhat (not completely, as this is a work in progress) when things appear to go wrong. The alternator light started to flash on the engine control panel as we were motor sailing to Indian Key. Since this was a new occurrence, I suggested to Bob it might be a result of our adding the solar panel. The problem appears to happen when the solar panel and alternator put out enough amps to fully charge the batteries so that the alternators voltage regulator tells the alternator to stop producing voltage. The charging light on the engine panel senses that no voltage is coming in and lights to send a warning. Bob called Balmar tech support who confirmed my theory.

Sitting with friends in Naples.

We will be three nights in Naples on the dock and then head up the west shore.The weather looks to be nice with light winds which might require more motor/sailing.Hope to be in Burnt Store late Saturday so we can drive to Port Charlotte on Sunday and see the 2.4 meter regatta and our friends aboard Tender.Then we are off to St. Pete and Tampa for a while before we head back to Burnt Store and haul out on May 15th. Difficult to believe that we are already 4.5 months into the adventure.

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