Monday, May 13, 2013

Change in Plans

May 11, 2013 Saturday

It was our plan to stay in Marathon for a year or so, but like all cruisers, plans change.  We loved Marathon's relaxed island life, and met many wonderful people.  It was great fun reconnecting with cruisers that we encountered along the Atlantic Coast as they made their way through Marathon this winter.  When Spring arrived, Boot Key Harbor slowly emptied as many cruisers returned north to their homes, home ports, or ventured on to the Bahamas.
A couple of weeks ago fellow cruiser and friend Tom Young came to Marathon with friends to go snorkeling.  Tom suggested we come to Fort Myers Beach, Estero Island, where he keeps his boat and check out his marina.  We took a road trip and spent the night for a look see.  We were very pleased with the marina and facilities, and the price was right.  It did not take anytime for us to decide we needed and wanted a change.
"Chasseur" was very excited to hear the news, for she has been tied to a dock for 4 months.  We made her ready to travel once again.  After preparing for our cruise, the weather changed bringing torrential rain and powerful North winds, so we sat waiting, waiting, and waiting more than a week for a weather window.
Finally, on a beautiful fair day of May 7, 2013, we were underway once again, "Chasseur" and her crew smiling ear to ear.  We had crossed the Seven mile Bridge several times to visit Key West and neighboring keys. This day however, we went under it and entered the Gulf of Mexico, for the very first time!  The water was a beautiful turquoise green and calm.  We enjoyed the flying fish that walk on top of the surface of the water, like a skipping stone..great fun to watch.
We departed Marathon at 0630 hours on Tuesday and motor sailed through  the night.  We had to endure a northern wind with a 2-3 foot chop for most of the evening sail, but it was a beautiful time out there with no moon, black sky, and brilliant stars!  Sailing the Gulf reminded us of our beloved Lake Michigan with the sun setting in the western horizon and sun rising over the eastern shore.  We arrived at Fort Myers Beach's inlet, Matanzas Pass, about 0830hrs Wednesday, but had to wait for a 1209 hrs high tide to venture through the pass and into our slip.
New friend,and dock neighbor, Dave Denise, dinghyed out to "Chasseur" in the pass and boarded "Chasseur".  Very experienced and knowledgeable of the Fort Myers Beach area, Dave provided valuable "Harbor Pilot" services to help us make the correct turns to approach our slip.  The Bay has many shallow areas and we welcomed the "local" knowledge.  With a 3 foot high tide helping us, "Chasseur" (and her 6.5 ft. draft) arrived unscathed!  THANK YOU DAVE!
"Chasseur" is now tied up at Snook Bight Marina overlooking Estero Bay Preserve State Park, with a  barefoot walk just across the street to beautiful Fort Myers Beach! The marina has new (4 months old), state of the art floating docks that are Category 2 and 4 hurricane rated.  The facilities are first class, bathrooms/showers beautifully tiled with granite counters.  The private pool and grill patio is on the second level above the marina parking structure.  All of the facilities, private and locked, are exclusively for marina boat owners.  Topping off the marina's amenities is a 5 star restaurant and out door bar overlooking the marina.  A person could become spoiled here!
We are again seeing porpoises.  They love this Bay, for mating and feeding.  They come right up to the docks.  We have one porpoise that feeds in the marina basin, the dock hands call him "Juan".  He startled Suzanne the first time she saw him when he came up next to her in our slip.
We are enjoying our morning beach walks, beach sunsets, and Bay sunrises over our bow.  Our kayaks are stored in the dry rack storage building.  The dock hands bring them out for us and return them when we are done.  Suzanne and Terry spent Mother's Day kayaking in the Preserve.

"Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything."
George Bernhard Shaw

Some parting photos from last days in Marathon.  Fort Myers photos follow........

More Marathon humor, tow truck business
Diane and Suzanne on one of many kayak adventures
Peacock, wild in the "Blue Hole" Preserve on Pine Key
Alligators in the "Blue Hole"
Thorn Tree
Dock neighbor, Tim, in Marathon cracking open coconut
Suzanne's good-bye treat
"Iggy" comes to say good -bye
Last visit to Sunset Grill, Diane & Suzanne enjoying a "Bucket 'O Tropical Drinks"
Hanging out at Burdines Grill & Bar, Boot Key Harbor.
Mutual friend and cruiser Phil Haines on SV "Special Bird"
Suzanne and Phil cleaning dinghy bottom at Sombrero Beach
Approaching Seven Mile Bridge, Gulf of Mexico on the other side
Sunset at sea, Gulf of Mexico, a long transit through the night
Dave Denise, our harbor pilot through the "back" bay
Snook Bight Marina, Fort Myers Beach
Marina "promenade", great place to hang out
Fort Myers Beach, across the street from marina
At our bow, Estero Bay Preserve State Park
Marina pet, "Tiki"
Blue dot our location

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Island Life

February- March, 2013

We have been here in Boot Key Harbor, Marathon for 10-11 weeks now and have settled into island life.  The weather has been perfect.  The cold fronts that affect the rest of the country do not make it down this far - so 75-80 degrees and sunny is our normal winter weather.
We are learning how to live on an island.  As we mentioned before, bikes are a necessity.  We added crates to the back of our bikes for shopping trips.  There are $5.00 taxis to anywhere on the island.  Buses are available from Fort Lauderdale to Key West for just a couple of dollars.
Our first bus trip was to Key West where we visited with our friends Ladd and Denise Caine on SV "Blue".  Our return trip was most interesting.  The bus driver was driving a bit faster than he should have, so he made a "get on schedule" stop. When Terry jumped off to see what was going on, in the corner of the lot was the bus driver and his girlfriend making "kissie" face.  He made another unscheduled stop for what we are not sure. Then, in the middle of the 7 mile bridge, the bus ran out of fuel, stranding us!  Terry had to request that the bus driver seek out the Sheriff to get behind us on the 2 lane Highway 1 in the dark of the night with some flashers.  A tow truck showed up later with diesel fuel, but for some reason there was a problem priming and starting the engine.  Finally another bus showed up and took us the rest of the way.  It was midnight before we got back to "Chasseur".   There were several "colorful" characters on the bus...  Life in the Keys.......
See photos for more island color, our own Harbor Viking.
There is much to do in Boot Key Harbor.  The Harbor is very organized with activities, seminars, and entertainment. We have only scratched the surface of things to do here.  Suzanne joined the harbor softball group, also known as the "Ibuprofen" League, also known as the "Oldstars".  The group is mostly men and many have knee, leg and back braces.  Suzanne understands the "Ibuprofen" label intimately now having suffered 3 injuries in three games, she has decided to leave the team with a strong sense of self preservation!
Terry attends a men's skippers breakfast every Monday morning at the 7 mile Grill.  There is , they say, over 700 years of mariner experience between them.  Terry enjoys the collegiality and camaraderie, and returns with lots of information.
The boat bottom diver brought to our attention a 6-7 foot bull shark swimming past the bow of our boat.   It was a "critter" active day at the docks with manatees and giant tarpons, as well.  Hopefully we won't encounter the sharks while we kayak.
We have purchased 2 kayaks and looking forward to starting our kayaking adventures. A dinghy flotilla with Harv and Anne Cross on SV "Camelot" and new friend Diane Vanderlaan (from Grand Rapids, Michigan) took us to Sisters Creek and estuaries with a Sombrero Beach landing for lunch.  We combined this trip with a "recon" for future kayak destinations.
Terry has been working with dock friend Dave Lazarus on our air conditioning.  Dave had installed air conditioning units several times previously,  and  offered to do the install.  "Chasseur" was "torn apart", the work started and finished  in a little more than a week.
The last week in February and the first week in March brought visits from many friends, land lubbers and cruisers alike.  We have enjoyed their company.

Island life pictorial follows (for those of you that just like to look at the photos)........

Bike with new "crate", Terry calls this the Marathon Mini-Van
A frequent visitor, scarred Momma manatee hanging out along side of "Chasseur"
Baby Manatee
Papa Manatee slurping up as much fresh water as he can get
Land crab on the dock, actual size approx. 2-3 inches
Sunset at "Sunset Grill"
Clear water at Sombrero Beach
Attending Bahama seminar, presenter friend Harv Gross SV "Camelot", 75 cruisers attended
Base hit...before her injuries
This years "Oldstars", Suzanne in pink shirt, front row on left

Some fun in Key West:

Moray eel caught on Key West pier
Only 90 miles to Cuba, waiting for relations to open so we can visit
Kapok tree
Rooster and chickens run freely throughout Key West, protected

Orchids growing on a Banyan tree limbs
Key West Sunset
Friend Bob Snideman having fun with "Marilyn"
Anything goes in Key West

Back in Boot Key, more life on an island..........

"Last Supper" at Burdines Grill in Boot Key, Bob and Jen Snideman, and Ladd and Denise Caine
Ladd and Denise(background), Jan and Richard Pflueger (new friends from Alabama, we bought their kayaks)
a toast to our new purchase
Model kayak we purchased
Pig races of Marathon, a BIG event annually
More pig races, Linsey LoHAM in the lead
Viking Dinghy
Marathon's own Viking
"Protected" Key Deer, smaller, tame and very friendly........
Approaches van.....
Nosing into van

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Our Stats

January 17, 2013 Thursday

Our arrival to Marathon Key was anti-climatic.  We compiled some travel statistics to help us realize what we had accomplished.

Cumulative nautical miles                              2960
Intracoastal waterway statue miles                 1195
Great Lakes transited                                          4
Travel Days                                                        88
Days Underway                                                199
Hurricanes                                                           1
Nor-easter storms                                                4
Run aground                                                       0
Repairs                                                         *1 impeller
                                                                     *1 raw water pump
                                                                     *1 galley water hose leak                          
Sunrises and sunsets                                      too many to count

Since we arrived Terry has had trouble turning off "cruiser mode"  He wakes every morning thinking he has to plan for the next leg.  He is already reading, planning, and charting for future travels.  Fellow cruisers here at our dock are helping Terry acclimate to his winter "at the the dock" lifestyle.  We may still go to Key West, Marquesas Key, and Dry Tortugas this year.  A Bahamas trip is planned for spring 2014.
Many of the cruisers at our marina have been coming here for many years.  They have been very welcoming to us.  There is a marina happy hour every day.  Sunday the happy hour includes a potluck.
It is said that people who visit the Florida Keys either love them or hate them.  The Keys are laid back and very eclectic.  There is a quirky sense of humor prevalent about the islands (see photos).  Hippies and other colorful types are alive and well in the Keys.

New friends, Anne and Harv Gross, from Wisconsin
and have been cruising on their boat for 17 years.
Sunset over Boot Key Harbor entrance, from Burdine Marina Tiki Bar 
Sunday marina happy hour and potluck

This is real, posted at the golf course across from our marina.
 Note NOT alligators, there are salt -water crocodiles here