We were happy to depart from Municipal Marina in Clearwater. We stayed a few days too long but we were all rested up and Miss Lone Star started right up. It is always reassuring when your home/transportation starts as anticipated. We drank coffee a little later than expected and didn’t leave until about 10 A.M. We waved goodbye to the bird estuary, where we spent so much time and entered the main channel out of the city. We travelled offshore 3-9 miles for the passage.
It was an easy trip and we saw a lot of pretty wildlife and some more jumping rays. The kids read books topside and Aubrey got to relax on the boat as we motored South. The day was sunny and the air was crisp. We saw a lot of feeding birds and schooling fish so we slowed down to throw out a line to troll. I reduced speed to 5 knots and we gave fishing a try for an hour to no avail. I was disappointed that we wouldn’t fill our belly with fresh fish for dinner but I was happy to move closer to our destination. We cruised at 25-27 knots as our boat drank the fuel it had in its full belly.
We entered inland through Boca Grande Pass, which was really interesting and scary. We approached from the North and there was a short cut listed on the charts close to the shore. It read that it was a deep channel (8 feet) and we cautiously proceeded through the remains of an old concrete pier that had been pushed aside. Driving a boat is scary sometimes and you hope that the charts are correct, trusting your gut as much as possible. We motored along and we saw waves breaking into the main channel that intersected up ahead. It was massive and the water coming and going was big. The waves were breaking at 1-2 feet and something looked off. We the charts wrong? Would we be grounded on a sand flat or worse? Aubrey manned the bow and kept a look out. The water was sandy and murky.
The depth gauge didn’t show problems and we proceeded through with no issues. I think the main channel was so deep it was pushing harder than the smaller channel that we were traveling in. Tide was coming back in and it caused the waves to break over the shallower channel. It sure looked like a shoal! We saw the most beautiful lighthouse to the port side and it reminded me of Maine.
The area inland is very quaint and beautiful. There are many fishing boats in the channel and we later learned that this is the Tarpon Capital of the World or something because of the conditions. I’m not sure what people were fishing for on this day but they were having a lot of luck. We saw the most unspoiled and gorgeous beaches of our trip to the starboard. The sands were a soft yellow and there was a mix of palm and lush vegetation around the interior of the islands. The beaches had no people and they stretched for many miles over several unspoiled islands. I later learned that this was the largest Florida State Park and locals commonly bragged about walking nude on the beaches for the entire day without seeing anyone.
It is hard for me to consider walking nude on a beach as I write this journal. Aubrey got me some of those european Speedo shorts in Clearwater at a store when she was out. They are so short! I don’t think she thought I would wear them but since a swimsuit is about all I wear most days, having a fourth pair of shorts was a blessing! I have tanned myself to the point that I look like a salty old fisherman. All of my other shorts left a tan line that extended about 18 inches down of the new shorts I wore so a section of my white leg was blinding. They changed to beat red after only one day. I hoped to increase my tan in the coming days and decided to shelve the shorts until such time as then.
We saw pods of dolphins and they were very active as we entered the ICW and proceeded South. This area was our favorite so far and it was calm and deserted but it didn’t give off a creepy, too far out feel. We had consulted our Waterway Guide on my phone and saw a marina that was on our way generally South and not out-of-the-way. It was called Cabbage Key. We raised them on our radio and they had their own channel dredged and well-marked. The dock master guided us into our spot.
Cabbage Key is the cutest little island that I’d ever seen and the cottages and structures were old and well maintained. White paint adorned most of the structures. It was something out of a Jimmy Buffett song. Fish were teeming under the bat and we saw rays in the shallows together with small dolphin and their mammas. The laundry facilities and showers were right on the dock and they were clean and easy to access. We made reservations for the restaurant and played in a beach area. The water was warm but well received on our hot skin. The kids sat on plenty of timeout as we sipped on our beers to unwind. I’m not sure why the natives were restless but they certainly were that day.
We learned that a family bout the entire Key in 1929 for $2500 and built a bunch of cottages together with employee quarters. They have their own old water tower, which reminded me of an old movie. You really feel like you stepped back in time when you come to this place! We walked all over the key on a nature trail that was also marked with different signs that educated us on the native vegetation, creatures and sites. Indians apparently built up the key with shells and it sits and impressive 38 feet above sea level. The mosquitos were out in full force as we took our hike and of course I didn’t wear my shirt. Noseeums also dined on my skin and those little things are nasty!
I dove into the water after an hour of touring the Key wishing I wore a shirt and took along bug spray. We considered staying another day to check everything out and to dinghy over to the beaches we saw that were about 3 miles back to the North. We dined in the restaurant and it was fantastic! Dollar bills cover the walls from about 70 years of visitors and they are said to number about 200,000. I believe it. The food was to die for and Aubrey loved the crusted snapper. I ate a cheeseburger and a salad, which suited me just fine. Our waiter was a nice guy and a Veteran on a hiatus from Chicago. He lived on the island in the employee quarters. It seemed like a really great opportunity for the people to live on site but there were small boat ferries that came around a couple of times per day.
We tried to catch some of the many huge fish that were jumping by our boat for an hour but I guess I didn’t have the right lure. We slept just fine and the boat was still.
We finished up a few loads of laundry before departing the next day. Life on a boat isn’t as glamorous as people make it out to be. Someone referred to my boat as a small yacht today in conversation. The maker of the boat is Cruisers Yachts but I’ve never viewed my boat as anything but a 16-year-old boat that takes us where we need to go. It is shiny and it looks good but in the end we live in 220 feet of below deck space with only a curtain to separate us from the kids. We have a small bathroom and a tiny galley to cook. A small table is below and the kid’s cave would be a small couch if it weren’t being used for their bed. Above deck is nice when the bugs aren’t out and the heat isn’t insane. We love our boat but we are reminded that we still get our water from a garden hose and pump out our own sewage every few days. Most people don’t look past the romantic concept of living aboard a boat to think about the reality.
We love our life and I wouldn’t trade it. Miss Lone Star is our home and she takes us where we need to go. She is all we need and we are thankful for her.
It turns out that Jimmy Buffett did write a song about Cabbage Key while he was on the island many times. I’m sure that you’ve heard of “Cheeseburger on Paradise.” I had mine and I would explain it the same way!