Thursday the 21st was laundry day – we had to drive it in via dinghy and pay $6 per load. Brian and Deb Christensen were kind enough to pick us up on their way by so that we could run a few needed errands. It was good to see them again. We prepped the dinghy and enjoyed our last Marathon sunset and the blowing of the conchs.
We pulled out of Marathon the next morning after refueling ($5.16/gallon), pump-out, purchasing ice and fresh water. We made our way out to Hawk’s Channel in the Atlantic. It was a slow rocky ride with a medium chop, dodging crab pots along the way. The salt spray impaired our vision as it went over the windshield on several occasions, and we finally made it to Channel 5 – a large cut-thru from the Atlantic to the other side and into Florida Bay.
Here the waters were much calmer and many spots were a beautiful aquamarine blue, although much of it was shallow, and we had to wind our way through narrow channels, some incorporating creeks. Passing by Lower and Upper Matecumbe Keys, Plantation Key and Tavernier, and finally made it to the most northern part of Key Largo.
We pulled into Gilbert’s Resort and checked things out, as this is where Michael and Tammy were to meet up with us. We found a mooring ball nearby, but decided it was too unprotected, and the boat swung almost into the channel. We decided on back-tracking about 5 miles, and went thru the Marvin D Adams Waterway, a man-made canal that leads to Largo Sound. Here we got a mooring ball from the John Pennekamp State Park Marina.
The next day we had a fun time exploring the natural mangrove channels, and visited the Aquarium at the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. It was America’s first undersea park, and focuses on preserving North America’s only living coral reef. We watched an informative movie about life on a coral reef. We visited Far Beach at the Park, and I went for a swim.
On Sunday we decided to leave Largo Sound because of the blustery 25 mph winds. We were unable to pull the dinghy up, so tied it along the stern port side, and drove into the Park Marina. We had a very difficult time tying up, and got help from neighboring boaters, also doing the loop. Charlotte and Stephen aboard ‘Jackets II’ will soon “cross their wake” when they complete the loop in Jacksonville.
We got settled into our slip, then walked about 1/2 mile to have dinner at the Fish House Restaurant and Seafood Market. I think it was the best meal we’ve had on the entire trip; Lobster Bisque, Yellowtail – Hemingway style with a side of black beans and rice. Yummy!!
Later that evening we had a cocktail aboard ‘Jackets II’, and awaited the arrival of Michael and Tammy. I walked to the entrance gate to meet them about 8:30 p.m., and hopped into their vehicle. It was so great to see them!! We stayed up late, catching up on news of each other. Michael and I visited in the cockpit after Jim and Tammy turned in. Amid intermittent rain showers we heard a crocodile snatch a screeching bird near the dock a few feet away. Wow, that was freaky!
The next morning I served up shrimp, sausage and cheese omelets and home-style potatoes. We went for a boat ride into Largo Sound and got to see dolphins swimming and surfacing near the boat. Then we headed out to the Atlantic because they wanted to see the ocean. Tammy and I did some bow riding, then we headed back to the marina.
From there I drove their vehicle to the Winn Dixie for a few groceries, then on to Gilbert’s Resort. They went via the water. We unloaded the groceries and stowed them below deck, and they checked into their skanky room. We decided to stay at the marina, so they gave us a slip on the dock for the night.
The resort was a fun place to hang out – especially in the huge Tiki Bar area, where we had dinner, celebrated Michael’s 33rd birthday, and listened to a fabulous band. We met some interesting people – especially Debra and Robert who have sailed their boat to many exotic places like Guatemala, Belize, Mexico, Islands in the Caribbean and the Bahamas, to mention a few.
We said our goodbyes this morning to Michael and Tammy after sharing breakfast at Gilbert’s. We took off in the boat and they managed to snap a photo of us as they were driving over the nearby bridge. They are now off to Key West, and we will be heading north in a couple of days, probably to Biscayne Bay. We are back at the Pennekamp State Park Marina where we both got nice hot showers at the nearby campground.
Tomorrow we are either going to take the Glass Bottom Boat Tour of the reef, or go out snorkeling in our own boat. It is supposed to be another windy day, so we won’t venture too far. The strong north-westerly winds have blown in some much colder weather, with lows down in the 40’s. The locals are complaining, but it makes for good sleeping. Who knows – the jeans may make a come-back yet!