We make it to Key West!
320 Days Looping
4,714.6 Nautical Miles Total (5,425.5 Statute Miles)
46.3 Nautical Miles This Week
4.5 Hours Underway This Week
9.8 NMph Average Speed
0 Locks This Week, 154 Total Locks
Monday – Feb 24th – 0 NM – In: Marathon, FL
We had reservations for the 10:00 tour of the Turtle Hospital. At 9:30, we jumped on the bikes and rode up. The tour starts with an orientation explaining the history and mission of the hospital, the different types of turtles they treat, and some information on the most common injuries and maladies that they treat. Most of the turtles they see are Green Sea Turtles with a few Ridley Turtles. The injuries they see are propeller strikes, net and fishing line entanglements, and shark bites. Sickness is either a starvation issue due to them ingesting plastic bags and other trash or a virus that causes large tumorous growths on their fins and heads around their eyes. This virus is on the increase due to pollution and warming of the water.
The good news is that they can treat many of the issues. The virus can be treated with medication and surgery to remove the growths and then the turtles can be released back into the wild. For injuries, they have a general rule that the turtle must have 3 flippers, sight in one eye, and not have a “bubble butt” to be released back into the ocean. Bubble butt is a condition where an air pocket develops under the shell, usually near the tail from a strike on its shell. This causes the turtle to be extra buoyant in the area with the bubble, so they have trouble controlling depth. In many cases, it keeps them from diving causing them to be easy prey, unable to get food, and overheating from sun exposure. Once it develops, there is no way to remove it. What the hospital does, is add lead weights stuck to the outside of the shell to counterbalance the buoyancy. They start by sticking velcro to the shell so that they can easily change the weights until they get the right size and position. They adhere the weights directly to the shell with epoxy. Because the turtle shells continue to grow, and the epoxy eventually releases, they can’t release turtles with weights. Most of these that are otherwise healthy are adopted by aquariums around the world and live out their lives being taken care of.
We “met” about 40 turtles at the hospital. We were fortunate to meet 2 that were being released over the next week. The hospital has rehabilitated and released 76 in the last year!
After our tour of the hospital, we headed back to the boat. The winds were still strong but had shifted to a more northerly direction. Each tide change, the water around the boats was inundated with seagrass that the winds had torn loose from the sea bottom. Normally this is not an issue, however, because it was so thick, over a foot deep in places, our heating and a/c system which draws water from under the boat kept clogging up with grass. Also, when it’s sunny, the grass starts to “degrade” and it really smells! Our slip was one over from the back corner of the basin. The folks on Maggie Jo and the sailboat Greta James (from Meredith, New Hampshire right near where we are from in Manchester, NH) on either side of us were having the same issue, so every tide change, the three of us would go out with boat poles and “rake” the grass out into the basin. Once we broke it up a bit and got it moving, the current would pretty much take care of it.
About half of the grass would get caught in the current and float out of the marina. The other half would float across the basin and around the boats on the other side. When the tide changed again, those boats on the other side would go out and push the grass back toward us! It was a constant battle for several days.
In the evening, we had dinner on the boat and turned on our underwater lights to watch all of the little feeder fish and the larger triggerfish swimming around.
Tuesday – Feb 25th – 0 NM – In: Marathon, FL
On Tuesday we had brunch with Dave & Kate from Lee-Loo. They are in Book Key Harbor on a mooring ball. They took their dinghy over and we met at The Stuffed Pig. We sat in the outdoor patio chatting for several hours and ended up leaving when they closed at 2:00. While we were eating, large iguanas were roaming around the patio looking for handouts, sort of like scaly pigeons. When the staff shooed them away, they would run up and sit on top of the fence watching for something to drop.
After lunch, we went back to the marina. On the way, we stopped to watch them unload lobster traps at the fishery. In the afternoon it was another session fighting grass and cleaning out the strainers. Long Way Home who we had cruised with on the Mississippi and Ohio rivers pulled in, it was great to see them again.
In the evening, we went back to the Overseas for dinner. On the menu was a Blueberry Fried Cheesecake dessert. The menu item said Blueberry but the description said Strawberry. When the waitress came to take our dinner order, we asked the waitress which it was. She said, “I don’t know but I’ll get one, try it, and let you know!”.
About halfway through dinner, she came back with a half-eaten dessert to show us and said that it was both strawberry and blueberry! She said that it was very tasty but it needed a drizzle of raspberry sauce. We ordered that for dessert! Talk about a dedicated employee taking one for the team!
Wednesday – Feb 26th – 0 NM – In: Marathon, FL
It was raining overnight and was still raining Wednesday morning. There was heavy rain predicted for the afternoon, so we did a Home Depot (by bike) and Publix run (by car). When we finished at Publix we called a taxi, and when one pulled up, we put our stuff in it and got a ride back to the marina. We were just finishing up putting the groceries away when my phone rang. “This is the taxi company, are you still at Publix?” the person asked? “No, we’ve already been picked up.” “Our driver just got there.” Well, it seems that we grabbed someone else’s cab by mistake! Oops!
We spent the afternoon on the boat working on the blog and watching the rain come down.
At 4:30, there was a break in the rain and we went to Clawsa-Blanca for dinner with a group of Loopers. Sequel, About Time, Shoreline Traveler, and some friends of theirs visiting from Canada. There were 10 of us, so a good group. Just after we arrived the rain started up again, so we stayed for a couple of hours eating shrimp, stone crab claws, steamers, lobster tail, and a variety of other fresh delicacies.
Thursday – Feb 27th – 0 NM – In: Marathon, FL
It was cloudy, cold (67° we had to wear long pants!), and blustery. We were still getting north winds up to 25 mph. We slept in, and Brenda worked on her cross-stitch while I worked on the blog. Jamie and Trish from About Time had planned on leaving in the morning but decided against it because of the high winds and waves. In the afternoon, Brenda wanted to get off the bouncy boat, so she went up to the boaters lounge and visited with Trish. Around 5:00, they called and said that they wanted to go to the Overseas Grill for dinner, so we all met up and walked over.
After dinner, we said our goodbyes as both of us were planning an early departure in the morning and we turned in early.
Friday – Feb 28th – 46.3 NM – To: Key West, FL
We pulled out of Marlin Bay at 7:30. Brenda was apprehensive about the trip to Key West, but the water looked pretty calm. Our first leg was short, about 1.5 miles to Faro Blanco Marina which was only about 1/2 mile as the crow flies but you have to go out into the Gulf a bit to avoid some shoals. We pulled into the fuel dock with no drama and took on 210 gallons. We were lucky, there was a 110 ft superyacht that was on a charter at the marina. With the wind and current, they were unable to leave. They had been stuck for two days and it looked like they might be there for another day if the wind didn’t die down. Bummer for people paying $100,000 a week for a superyacht! We hoped that they had taken time to visit the Turtle Hospital!
After fueling up, we headed for Key West. We wanted to visit Key West because we had done Christmas in Key West for a couple of years, and on one of our trips we met Captain Alex who ran a small dinner cruise. He was one of the people who gave us the boating bug, and we wanted to say Hi, and tell him that he was “responsible”.
We had to go from the Gulf side of the Keys to the Oceanside. There is a bridge that connects Marathon to the lower keys called the “7-Mile Bridge”. After leaving Faro Blanco, we headed north to the main ICW route, then turned south to go under the bridge. The bridge is neat as you go under the new Route 1, Ocean Highway, and the original Flagler Railway bridge. The space in between is popular with fishermen.
After going under the bridge, we went out into the Hawk Channel and turned West toward Key West. The trip was quite pleasant, we had very little wind chop, and 2 foot swells with a timing of 8 seconds which means a nice slow rolling ride. We ran about 3 miles offshore following the Overseas Highway and the various keys as we went south.
There was plenty to listen to on the radio, the Coast Guard was busy! On the way down, we heard two emergency calls. One for 4 people in the water from a small fishing boat that went down, and a capsized catamaran just off Key West. Both were resolved well, with everyone found safe.
As we passed the Key West Naval Air Station, we had several large planes and fighter jets pass over us as they were on their landing approach. Just before our turn into the Key West Channel, we saw two large fishing trawlers pretty much in the middle of the channel. As we got closer, we noticed that one was at anchor pulling up its nets, and the other was moving away into Key West Harbor. It seemed funny that the boat would be at anchor in the middle of the channel. As we went by, we saw why. They were being boarded by the Florida Department of Natural Resources. The DNR boat was hidden behind the boat until we got past.
We rounded the point into Key West at 1:30 and passed a large cruise ship tied up in port. We went into the marina which was very crowded. On the way in we had to watch for extra-large boats in slips that were too small so that their anchor pulpits were sticking into the fairway. There was a pretty good crosswind, and our slip was in a back corner, but with a bit of prodding and assistance from the dockhand, we got in safe and sound and by 2:00 were all tied up.
We went to the office to check in and then took a walk up Duval Street (the main drag in Key West) we’d skipped lunch so we stopped at Caroline’s Cafe for an early dinner. After dinner, we walked to Sunset Pier to watch the sunset and the boats vying for space to watch. There was even a guy on a water jet pack with his golden retriever riding in a backpack!
Saturday – Feb 29th – 0 NM – In: Key West, FL
Saturday we went to the dockside restaurant for breakfast, then walked the docks to look at the boats and see if we could meet any Loopers. We meet Mike & Judy on One September who had completed the loop a couple of years ago. We also met Jolly Mon, who was parked next to us, they are not Loopers but are from Pawleys Island, just down the street from home.
As we were walking back by the boat, we saw a group of HUGE Tarpon (fish) that hang around under the docks. When we were tying up yesterday, I heard a huge splash in the empty slip next to us. I thought it was a person falling in, but it was a 4-5 foot tarpon jumping! You can see them lurking just under all of the fishing boats waiting for a handout. Many are easily 4-6 feet long!
We walked to the other side of the harbor to where Captain Alex (one of the people who gave us the boating bug) docked his boats. Unfortunately, he’s moved to another part of Florida so we were not able to catch up with him. From there we walked up to Mallory Square by where the cruise ships dock and wandered around through the shops. We also took the opportunity to do a Geocache. All around Key West there are chickens! We don’t remember them being a “thing” when we were last here around 2007. They are the offspring of escapees during hurricanes. The place is covered with them (Miami was as well). You see mostly roosters, but there are chickens many with small chicks. As you walk down the street, you’ll hear scratching in the underbrush or get startled by an unexpected Cocka-doodle-doo!!!!!
After wandering around for a couple of hours, we were getting cold as the wind had shifted to the North and the temperature dropped from the low 80’s to the upper 60’s in a couple of hours. As we were walking onto our dock, there was a manatee hanging out in a sunny spot munching on the grass at the bottom of the marina. It’s the first wild manatee we’ve seen!
With the Northwind, it was quite cool, and we ended up changing into long pants. (I’ll bet our northern friends would kill for a day in the upper 60’s right now!) We had dinner on the boat and then walked to the end of our dock to watch the sunset. It was just as good a view as at Sunset Pier, and no crowds!
Sunday – Mar 1st – 0 NM – In: Key West, FL
Every Sunday there is a craft fair/farmers market at Higgs Beach park on the south side of Key West. It’s pretty much on the exact opposite side of the island that we were on, about a 2-mile walk. We headed out at 9:30 and took a slightly longer route so that we could go past some of the sights including the Hemingway House, Audubon House, Key West Lighthouse, and the Southernmost Point. We’ve visited all of these during past visits so we didn’t stop, but it was neat to see them again.
The craft fair was okay, with lots of food and jewelry. The vegetable stands were not local, they were just reselling commercial produce. We did find some cute tie-dye tee-shirts for our nieces Na and Nam, and some freshly dried figs.
We walked across the street to a large pier that we’d passed with the boat on the way into Key West. It’s called the Edward B Knight Pier formerly the White Street Pier. It was built in 1960 as a fishing pier and park and was the location of the weekly market. In 2016 it was renamed after Edward B Knight a long-time Key West resident and philanthropist. He made his millions supplying wooden boxes to the Cigar factories. We walked out on the pier, and it was VERY windy and there was a heavy chop on the water, good sailboat weather! As a bonus, there was also another geocache at the end of the pier!
From there, we headed back toward the north side of the island and the marina. We just sort of picked streets at random and ended up walking past the entrance to the Key West Cemetery. Because the island is mostly coral and is at or just above sea level, they can’t dig standard graves so they are all shallow with concrete caps, or above ground. It was interesting to walk around and see the old and unique graves. We also got to visit with the chickens who’ve taken over the cemetery. In 1847 there was a hurricane that washed up coffins from the old cemetery near White Beach. They moved the cemetery to the present location as it was the highest ground in the middle of the island.
After leaving the cemetery, we walked back to the marina side of the island past some interesting sculptures. We had a nice lunch at a BBQ place near the marinas. We smelled the BBQ at least two blocks before we got there. The owner came over to chat with us while we were eating and said that their BBQ Pit had caught fire the day before and ruined a full day’s meat. They spent the night cleaning it and were working overtime to re-supply. The pulled pork I had was excellent and definitely not from the burned batch.
In the evening we went to the Commodore restaurant near the marina for dinner. It was our waitress’s first night, but she did a very good job.
NEXT WEEK: We start our trip north and east with a slight detour!
Tom & Brenda