Look, up in the sky ... no look REALLY hard ... there's a black dot in the top right hand side of our sunset tonight. It's Fat Albert, really, the REAL Fat Albert! Fat Albert is a blimp employed by the US to spy on Cuba or some such important task. But for Easter, Fat Albert is telling all of you & us HAPPY EASTER! :)
And while we're looking for tiny objects in photos, look between the two power poles on the distant north side of US 1 going across Bahia Honda and you'll see a mast ... on a sailboat, that would be us. Almost in the middle of the photo WAY in the distance! We sailed bayside to Bahia Honda, a state park that has an anchorage sheltered from the strong south winds today. We were concerned because every cruising guide says deep draft boats can't sail on the north side (bayside) of the Keys. Well, we only made it 13 miles, but we made it. Just in time for Easter ... a long walk on the Bahia Honda beach ... reported by some to be one of the best in the US ... and then ice cream instead of an Easter basket.
And lest you think we might be lonely, a lone boat in that vast sea of islands ... the dolphins are keeping us company along with their buddies, the sea turtles, and we're having a blast. Now if the wind wasn't going to switch to the North on Tuesday late... ;( But we'll enjoy it a day at a time since that seems to be what Mother Nature (and Mother Ocean) is giving us this year. HAPPY EASTER!
Seems like everyone here is looking for a weather window to get somewhere -- Bahamas, West Florida coast, down the Keys, wherever. But the weather pattern isn't consistent enough yet. We all need a few days of consistent weather before the next vicious norther blows through and we need a protected anchorage. But not to be ... yet. We're hoping to leave Easter Sunday afternoon and sail to Bahia Honda State Park, with several of the top rated beaches in the Keys, some top rated in the US. We hope to see. And we REALLY hope there's really a reef inside the bayside beach where we'll be anchored so we can snorkel. TIme will tell!
In the meantime, we hiked the Crane Point Nature Preserve yesterday, including the Wild Bird Rehab Center & had a nice day. Here are a few photos:
Although the Crane Point Nature Preserve is known for the largest thatch palm hammock left in it's natural state anywhere in the Keys, there are also gumbo limbo trees scattered through the natural vegetation. They are known as the "tourist tree" - not only in Florida, but throughout the Caribbean because their red peeling bark reminds locals of sunburned tourists!
Throughout the Keys, development has been more important than preserving "old Florida" and the way the Keys looked before all the US 1 commercialism. The Keys Thatch Palm is endangered but abundant here in the nature preserve.
Somewhat shady trails led to "solution ponds" which are pools of fresh water that was necessary for wildlife, some fauna and humans to exist in the early Keys.
A butterfly garden never hurts a hike, although we were at the wrong time of year for most of the butterflies, we still saw several. Only if you're slow and quiet though. We saw several families "hiking" that noisily sped their way through the preserve and I'll guarantee you never saw a bird, butterfly or anything else unless it was in a cage! SSssshhhh!!! Slow down & enjoy nature!
Here's a green donner, one of the largest dragonflies in the Florida Keys. You can't see it very well in this small version of the photo, but he's looking directly at us with his giant eye AND smiling for the camera!
Lots of these giant spiders, not sure what they are & don't really care to know. But if you look carefully just to the top left, this one has a baby spider accompanying her!
The Wildbird Rescue Center takes in injured birds that people bring in from all over the Keys, fixes them up, releases the ones that are capable of living again in the wild, and keeps a few that are too badly injured to make it -- most have serious wing injuries that keep them from flying.
There's also the small Adderly settlement, originally several families from the Bahamas that immigrated to the Keys and started their own settlement. This is the only surviving house left, but it's very interesting. When Henry Flagler's railroad needed to buy property rights to build the railroad, the Adderly settlement negotiated the rights to have their own railroad stop -- called "Vaca Station" and that's why Vaca Key is so named today. Unfortunately the railroad and their special stop surrendered to the 1935 hurricane and the settlers only enjoyed their own railroad stop from 1912 to 1935.
After leaving the Crane Point Nature Preserve, we stopped across the street to see if Publix had any different buy one get one free sales, wandered to Walgreens to buy David some itch cream for some bug bite he got and then wandered back to the marina.
Another fun day in paradise.... STILL waiting for weather! :)
Busy day today -- hiked Crane Hammock State Park and then back to the marina. When we returned, we ran into some boats we knew at the dinghy dock -- by this time it was 4 PM-ish.
"BTW, we're all going to The Hurricane for 25 cent wings night - at 5 PM - want to come?" We still hadn't taken showers, but by 5:40 PM we were at The Hurricane with happy hour drinks ordered waiting for our wings with new boating friends. There were two tables of boats from the Marathon City Marina mooring field ... this is a big part of what cruising is all about ... fun with old friends and meeting and making new friends! Thanks for the invite all!!! Cheers - J&D
If not waiting on parts, it's waiting on weather. We were hoping to be in Marathon (Florida Keys) long enough to get parts to fix our broken head and a couple of other minor things. Our week in the Boot Key Harbor mooring field was up last Saturday.
But then it appeared that there was a fairly strong cold front coming the following Monday & Tuesday, so we decided to renew for another week. Besides the NCAA's been on and this is the first time we've actually seen the NCAA tournament for years!
The decision was appreciated last night as the forecast called for 25-35 knot winds overnight and it certainly didn't disappoint. We turned off our wind generator and took the kayaks out of their racks and lashed to the deck. The wind rocked us to sleep and we were grateful we'd made the decision to stay.
Unfortunately there are only a few anchorages in the Keys that are well protected for weather from all directions so we're still waiting. It's looking like thunderstorms for Sunday and right now we're scheduled to leave Saturday, so we may renew for another day or two.
And until then, it's chilly here and WINDY... but we have sun and no snow. So life is still good! A bit boring sometimes when it's so windy that no one feels safe leaving their boat, but still good! :)
Good grief! Home has over 10 inches of snow and the storm has worked it's way south all the way to the Keys! Needless to say we don't have any snow, but the day started with a bang-up light show from lightning, then the bass drum thunder kicked in just to make sure we were awake before dawn. A bit of rain, but really not all that much. Just a gray day and the forecast is calling for "windy" for the next few days. We're not big fans of the combination, so we took advantage of the morning to fix our primary autopilot (it wanted more fluid, must have been dehydrated) and do some boat chores.
We always try to get off the boat when it's a dreary rainy day - today's adventure was a one mile each way walk to the Winn Dixie just to see what treasures we might find. SCORE! They had Raisin Bran, chicken tenderloins & thin boneless pork chops all Buy One Get One Free! We got 12 dinners worth of meat for a bit over $12! I felt like I was almost as good a saver/couponer as my daughter Aly who saves bundles (or did before she had Chase 3 months ago!)!
Luckily the rain held off until David left to take a shower at the marina -- I opted to clean up here on the boat given the grey skies and ominous howling winds. But he waited until the rain quit to dash back & soon we'll have pork chops, green beans, corn on the cob & salad for dinner. Then read library books on our Kindles. Life is good! Tomorrow's forecast is for more rain -- we may have to try to walk to Walgreens & see if we can find the special batteries for our watermaker salinity tester -- see what exciting lives we lead? :) But at least we don't have 10" of frozen white snow!
It's been a quiet day in Boot Key Harbor. That nasty snowstorm that's going to dump 10" of snow on the Midwest has implications down here, although they seem mild and innocuous considering ... it's still 80 degrees and sunny, although the wind's been blowing all day -- first from the south, then southwest and now west ... sure sign of something coming! Forecast for Monday & Tuesday is wind & rain, so we renewed our week's stay here -- no fun to be exploring new anchorages in the Keys that are unprotected from winds of some direction when you know the coming weather will bring winds from ALL directions!
We watched my Indiana Hoosiers squeak by a torrid Temple team in the NCAA in the cruiser's lounge -- one of the amenities here at City Marina/Boot Key Harbor mooring field. We filled our tanks with water -- we could probably make water here in the harbor, but it's just better not to risk gunking up the filters with harbor water.
We're amazed at the difference in this harbor from when we spent time here almost 10 years ago waiting for a weather window to Isla Mujeres, Mexico. It was dirty, you couldn't see your hand under the water and the wildlife was, shall we say, less abundant. Today the water is returning to clear if not clean, David had a ray almost jump in the dinghy while ferrying water today. There are sharks, dolphins, turtles, fish and birds, birds birds. Nice to see it getting so much nicer.
We're watching the weather to see when we can venture out & do some exploring, but for now, it's nice being safely enclosed in this protected harbor with lots of ni
But guess what we did today! Sometimes cruisers just gotta get on the bus, pay the buck fifty and go to the Naval Air Station Key West for the Southernmost Air Show, featuring the Blue Angels! More soon!
Took over 500 pictures, but after pizza with friends, too tired to post a "real update". :) You get the idea. Great day!
David loves to dance & I stumble along with him, and everyone said the Hurricane has the best dancin' in Marathon... so off we went!
Not the kind of dancin' you were thinking?
For the first time since we started cruising in 2004, we get to WATCH March Madness... aka The Big Dance ... aka the NCAA basketball tournament! Both Indiana and Illinois played late this afternoon so we ventured out to watch.
Both our teams won, which means we're committed for Sunday's round to the Sweet 16. Keeping our fingers crossed! I-L-L and GO HOOSIERS!
When we were cruising exotic places, we'd usually start the day listening to the cruisers net, then we'd spend the morning working on boat projects. But the afternoon was free to go snorkeling, beachcombing, fishing, just enjoy.
Today we fell back into that routine and enjoyed it immensely. The second cup of coffee we enjoyed with the Marathon Cruiser's Net -- on VHF 68 at 9 AM (Marathon cruisers must get up later than most cruising locales!). Then I did the laundry while David walked to West Marine for new shackles to replace the rusted out ones on our snubber.
Last summer I read "Last Train to Paradise" a book about Henry Flagler and the construction of the longest railroad bridge ever attempted - the Overseas Railroad down the Keys to Key West ... 150 plus miles, most over open water. The book often read more like a novel than a historical account. Although we've been to Marathon many times, we didn't have any interest in visiting Pigeon Key until now. Read the book if you get a chance!
Pigeon Key, a work camp during the building of Henry Flagler's Overseas Railroad to Key West. Pigeon Key is a tiny island almost 3 miles out the 7 Mile Bridge.
Between 1908 and 1912, there were as many as 400 workers housed on the 5 acre island barely at sea level. While these workers built many bridges along the route through the lower keys, the bridge between Marathon & Bahia Honda Keys remains the largest and most impressive. It was once referred to as "the 8th Wonder of the World".
Many of the original 1910-12 vintage survive and are intact and maintained by the Pigeon Key Foundation - click to check it out or to get info about summer camps for kids or to rent the house in the next pic!
We enjoyed our historical tour and walked back on the original bridge which is no longer used except for foot and bicycle traffic -- 2 1/2 miles back to Marathon, seeing all kinds of marine life - several eagle rays, a southern stingray, several sharks and tarpon and many unidentified fish in the shallow clear waters below. All in all a great day!
Now beans & rice for dinner & an early bedtime -- the total walk back was about 5 miles, all flat & we decided we have a LONG way to go to get into shape for our Alaska adventure this summer!
In past years, we've always enjoyed snorkeling and David loved spearfishing. No spearfishing here in the Keys (at least in the parks) but at least we're snorkeling again! I was supposed to do laundry this morning, but when we got up and it was perfectly calm, we decided to change the plan. Flat water and snorkeling sites just a few miles away.... QUICK, find the snorkeling gear & load it in the dinghy!
Sombrero Key Light in the distance, we dropped anchor in sand just off the Flagler or Delta Barge. Not an easy spot to find, it's a 1920's barge sunken in one of the hurricanes during the construction of the the railroad to Key West. It's now turned into a nice little reef. Lots of fish. No dive mooring balls, so it was a bit difficult to find.
Now that we've rediscovered snorkeling, we're on the lookout for more good snorkel sites, shallow enough to enjoy the reef and close enough to reach by dinghy. Anyone have any suggestions?