Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Marathon, #1

When I signed off on the last blog, I wrote that I wouldn’t publish another one unless something unusual happened to us here in Marathon—thinking a day to day routine would be boring and uneventful. Not so, I’m finding out—and we haven’t even been here a week! So, I’m going to number this as 1, as our first exciting experience—we don’t want to forget last night! Monday, February 2nd.

It started with a Looper party organized over the daily morning radio program broadcasted here in Marathon at 9am on channel 68. “Pot of Gold” had sent out the invitation to all Looper boats in the area (several mornings in a row) to come to their marina’s dock (City Dock) for a 5pm cocktail party—bring an appetizer and your own drinks—a chance for us all to get together, as we are spread out here in Marathon over several marinas and anchorages. What a great idea and what fun—let’s go!

As the afternoon progressed, we all anxiously watched the weather and the accumulating clouds and hoped the forecasted rain would hold off until after the party was over. As it turned out, there were 66 people attending from 34 boats—we had no idea that there were so many of us in the area! A group picture was taken—maybe it will appear in the next AGLCA mailing. The rain did hold off, but thunder and lightning made the party end much sooner than any of us would have wanted. Quickly gathering our coolers and dishes, we all hurried back to our perspective marinas and boats—many had left windows and hatches open.

Thankfully, we got to our boat just as a gentle rain began—so far, no problem. We were invited over to “Kismet” to have a drink (we’re so glad you’re here, Lisa and Jim!) and then walked down the dock (under an umbrella and carrying my shoes) to the restaurant here at Sombrero Dockside—meeting “C-Life” and making a table of six for dinner in Dockside’s outdoor bar. Under cover, still no problem—we’ve dealt with a lot of rain on this trip.

No sooner had we sat down and ordered drinks did the heavy rain begin. The perimeter curtains around the restaurant were lowered and we all felt safe, secure and dry—thunder and lightning were getting closer, but still no problem. Wow—how in an instant things changed. All of a sudden, a burst of wind blew out the seams in the curtains and the rain blew sideways onto us. Everyone got wet—at all the tables—and most people jumped up and headed inside to the bar area. (Not us though, the bar was way-too packed and we would have gotten even more wet just trying to squeeze in!) A weather “cell’ was over us—bringing winds of 60+ mph—just like a hurricane. Tables were soaked and plastic chairs were blowing over and across the floor. It was surreal—and we were standing outside under cover trying to stay dry near the kitchen! And as quickly as it began, it all stopped. Tables were toweled off, chairs were up-righted, new settings were passed around, we dried ourselves off, sat back down again and ordered our dinners—laughing and joking about our ordeal of the past 20 minutes. Kay even suggested we order hurricanes to drink! (That’s Pat O’Brian’s in New Orleans though!)

The band began playing again and our dinners came—we all enjoyed it tremendously. Having finished our meals, we asked for our checks to come from our still wet (and now cold and shivering) waitress, Stephanie. No sooner had she brought our checks back to the table than another “cell” blew through and the whole scenario began again. Truly, having had enough by then and all of us in some state of “wet”, we quickly said, “G’bye & G’night!!!” and dashed back to our boats. It was 9:15 pm. Whew—we’re so very glad we were right here tied to the dock and not on anchor. But what a night—what a memory!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Everglades City and Marathon

We left our serene little spot in Goodland Monday morning once the tide got high enough to travel. It has been very surprising to me that the waters in this region of Florida have been so shallow—we have a draft of four feet under our boat, so we have to make sure the water we traverse through has a depth of at least six feet. Many-a-time in these last few weeks we’ve had just that little “skinny water” too—and we’re well off-shore! But what a beautiful day we had to cross to Everglades City—the water was slick calm, the temperature was perfect, and there were dolphins everywhere following us and showing off. A sign well out in the middle of nowhere said, "Welcome to Everglades National Park". What a hoot to be that far from land and see a sign like that!

Everglades City is the last “get off the boat in civilization” stop before a long days’ crossing to the Florida Keys. We docked at the Rod and Gun Club for our overnight spot—what a grand old place that is! Built as a private hunting and fishing club in 1864, it has withstood many hurricanes and storms and is still so stately and beautiful today. Visited by Ernest Hemingway and John Wayne and many more celebrities, it also has held court to four sitting Presidents! Framed newspaper and magazine articles about the Rod & Gun Club line the entrance to the front desk and all kinds of local taxidermied animals and fish hang on the walls—what a history this place has had! We had a delicious late lunch out on the covered screened porch and a late dinner in the beautifully paneled old cypress wood dining room—what a real treat for all of us twice in one day—we thank you Buddy and Jimmy for your hospitality!

The Captains decided at dinner that early Tuesday morning we would leave and cross to Marathon—it would be a long day on the water for the two boats—but we could make it before dark. (We could break this crossing up into two parts with an anchorage tonight—but there’s a cold front coming through sometime Thursday and it is best we go the whole way before the winds really pick up.) So, at first light (ugh!) we’re headed to The Keys—our home base for the next five weeks!

It was a long day, not as pretty as the day before for sure, but we got here safely @ 5:30 pm and were welcomed by the crews of “Reel Estate” and “Sunshine” with drinks in their hands. We tied up in Sombrero Dockside Marina—a really good and convenient spot to rest for a month. We have a popular bar and very casual outdoor restaurant just at the end of our dock—Publix, Winn-Dixie, CVS and K-Mart are just a short walk away. There’s a walking loop that follows the golf course just behind our boats and I plan to make good use of that, hopefully daily! (We think this is a really good spot to be in considering other marinas that are available here—thanks Brantley for making it all happen!)

So now it’s early Sunday morning, February 1st, five days later, as I am writing this. Since we’ve been here (and with Buddy Barnes renting a van—thanks Buddy!) we’ve spent one day going to The Dolphin Research Center and then another going to Key West—love those Cuban mojiotos! (Seeing 9 of us packed into the van was hysterical!) “Wanderin’ L & M” made it here safely Thursday afternoon—boy is it good they’ve finally caught up with us too. We’ve been to some great restaurants and are enjoying the fresh seafood. In between spare times, the guys have been doing projects on their boats—Louis concentrating mainly on getting our dinghy’s outboard motor fixed. The girls have been doing laundry and grocery shopping—plus I’ve walked the loop every morning (we estimate it’s just shy of 2 miles--you're my inspiration, Bean!).

We’re getting into a nice routine now—something we’ve not had the luxury of before on this trip because we’ve always had to keep moving. “C-Life” has their company gone and the rest of our boats are back to being the normal crews. And the Florida Keys is where everyone on the Loop just slows down their pace and comes to a stop. Being this far south, we want it to be warmer than it is—but it’s not. We’ve had a couple of warms days—shorts and sandals—but mostly it’s been cool—far too cool to go swimming—but so nice. And we’ll take it gratefully too—it’s far nicer weather here than what’s at home. (Geni said they’re expecting ice Tuesday night!)

And we are going to try and just stop, rest & relax and enjoy our time here to the fullest—so I won’t be blogging as much—there just won’t be as many different days to document and I need to catch up on some reading! We both got Florida fishing licenses and hope to do some fishing. And we’ve heard from friends from home who will be coming through the area in February—several couples who plan to be in and around Marathon—we’re looking forward to being with them when they get here. By then, we’ll have culled the very best spots to take them to—what fun yet again!

We’re going to a Super Bowl Chili Cook-off Party this afternoon here at our marina—that ought to be interesting—I like the Budweiser commercials the best. After that, we have no plans—and we’re sticking to it! If anything different happens (which I doubt it will) then I’ll do a new posting, but otherwise, love to all and Happy Valentines Day!