We will call The Florida Keys home through December and we are making the most of it. We’ve made a lot of friends that grew up here who told us where the locals go! Aubrey is really proud of this video and so am I! This is a video of our experience at Alligator Reef!
We first set off on our voyage about 7 weeks ago in Kemah, TX and we made it to the Florida Keys 3 weeks ago. We docked Miss Lone Star and delayed filling her up with fuel because she was empty and we wanted to experience some of the amenities of our new dockage. We were fortunate and thankful to have our car and my trusty Harley when we arrived, which make shopping so much easier. It was sad for us not to have to walk everywhere because it was fun but now we don’t have to worry about lugging groceries back to the boat by hand with whining kids in tow.
I start up her engines every few days and I definitely noticed that she had accumulated algae on her hull. It was sad. We are located in the bay-side of our Key and the water, although clear, is not blue. We don’t feel much rocking on our boat because we are in a protected harbor. It’s nice to have air conditioning and laundry close by but we felt like we were missing out. I suggested that we take her out for a few days and Aubrey jumped at the idea, saying that she was going to suggest it earlier but didn’t want to complain. We filled her up with water, cleaned her decks and made the dreaded trip to the fuel dock. 190 gallons later, we set off to the East towards all of the most wonderful reefs of the Florida Keys. Continue reading
We heard about Key’s Disease from several people since we arrived. It is a general term that refers to many different things going wrong or attributes that one contracts after moving to the Florida Keys. We were first warned by a boat broker who said a boat can get the disease after being moved here from fresh water. Apparently, there are a lot of boats that get moved down here because it is the mecca of boating. The owners don’t use them anymore. These vessels fall into disrepair and get eaten up by the salt water while the owners goof off, drink beer and go diving. Don’t let your boat get Keys Disease.
A dog can get Key’s Disease by misbehaving and not obeying commands because she doesn’t get the exploring time that she craves. Onyx first started her bout with the illness by trying to make every dog on the dock love her. She knocked Diesel the dog on our first night by playing too rough and she has made most of the small dogs run in fear of her from her smiling face. Continue reading
Aubrey and the kids were less than happy with my marina choice and I can attest to the fact that things often look a certain way on a website (or Google Satellite Maps) and turn out differently when you see them in person. The Mangrove Marina wasn’t the place for us and we decided quickly that we needed to go. I think the decision for me came when I took my morning walk to the bathroom in my jammy pants without a shirt. I got heckled by the morning crew of mid 50-70 year old Florida Key men who hang out at the dock drinking coffee. I’m pretty sure I got a cat call or two and I reasoned that if I felt uncomfortable with these guys then my wife must want to jump out of her skin. We discussed it over coffee at a cute little place in Tavernier called Moka. I definitely recommend this place for coffee! Continue reading
I was so zapped from the sun and the previous days travels I forgot to check the weather when we arrived. I got up early to take Onyx out for a walk and saw the dark thunder head in our anticipated direction of travel. It was noticeably windy and cooler than the day before. Oh, no! Not another day in Marco, I thought!
I dialed up wind finder and it said the seas were no more than 2 feet in the gulf and around the back side of the Keys in Florida Bay. I looked at the doppler and it showed a system coming through to our south around the Everglades. It was moving at 7 knots and it was producing heavy rains. Ugh.
I checked back in after a couple of hours to see if it had moved through and it had not. I checked back in an hour and I could see two, well-developed systems. One was on land and the other was about to hit it. I figured that they come in threes so I guessed that I might have to live with some rain. Cruising is a cautious task and we all make educated guesses on our safety as we pass. I felt that I may experience some rain and wind but all of the NOAA buoy markers indicated waves no higher than 2 feet, even in presence of the storm. We were anxious to get to our destination and we voted to head out. The dog and kids didn’t get a vote but me and my lovely, tired wife agreed. I prayed I wasn’t making a mistake. I did pray, as I do most days that God would keep us and lead us safely through to our next place of rest.
We set off thought the long no wake zone and complicated channels to the gulf and the waves were rolling and constant. The winds had lessened to about 5 knots. We made an off shore passage about 3 miles out for most of the trip and it was a little rolly for an hour. Something on the bow of my boat was making a smacking noise in the pounding of each wave and I saw one of the metal fender holders break loose. I stopped the boat and secured it before setting off again. The kids and Aubrey were up top. It wasn’t that comfortable but we have a small boat that lends itself to a lot of movement if there are waves. No Dramamine for the crew, just yet but it was getting close. This was day 29 for us in our passage. Continue reading
We departed from Cabbage key late at about Noon and we had to get some expensive fuel in Sanibel Florida on the way out into open water. We plan to visit Cabbage Key again together with Big Pine Island and Boca Grande but it was time to bid the area farewell. We cruised down the ICW to Sanibel and we saw huge Yachts and lots of other boats in the area. It was beautiful but very congested. The channel was wider than we found so far and well-marked.
We entered open water before Ft. Myers and we could see the huge buildings and throngs of people on the shores. We were glad that we wouldn’t be stopping for a neon t-shirt and continued South, offshore 3-9 miles. One large city combined with another and so one until we got to Marco Island. I heard that it was once a quint little place but that is no longer the case. Naples comes before and you can’t really discern one from the next. The water is pretty but not as pretty as many of the places we visited. The boat traffic is significant, for cruising anyway.
The entrance to Marco Island Channel is horrible and if you aren’t a local it is hard to navigate. Two channels converge at the entrance to the gulf and their is a shoal or two in the middle. We needed to be on the starboard channel which required us to take a few directional changes to navigate it correctly. The no wake zone takes you a long time to traverse and we stayed at the Rose Marina, which was good for one night only. The marina was a concrete jungle and the only tuft of grass was wild and grew in a 3×3 foot patch close to the full dock. Onyx graced it with her paws and I have feeling that she killed a good amount of it with her female dog pee. They gave us a nice BoatUS discount on the slip and we hooked up to the power so we could blast the AC and go below deck for a cool off. There was nothing to see topside and the entire area was unremarkable in my opinion.
We recharged our batteries and took refuge from the sun. Anticipation was building for us because we knew that we only had one more travel day, God willing. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
We awoke early and saw a beautiful sunrise and a quiet bayou on Suwannee River. We fired up the normal pot of coffee that we make each day on our propane coffeemaker. I hate the darned thing by the way and I can’t wait until it wears out in 5 years or I can sell it to another cruiser. I wish we got a much smaller press, because we rarely drink more than a cup or two per morning. I rinsed down the boat one last time and Aubrey set off with the kids to find new creatures that were interested in capture. Bianca stayed in timeout while I fueled the boat because she stole her brother’s stick and taunted him with it. Once she got locked down he promptly restore the stick and made the following announcement:
I am the fairy godmother and this stick will help you to be better- poof!
It didn’t work but we had to get out of there while the tide was still high! We went out on the North end of the town through the naturally “deep” river (4-8 ft.) and out 3 miles through something the Army Corp of Engineers dredged a couple decades ago. My sonar read 2.4 feet several times but I never saw sand kick up in the prop wash or felt the dreaded bump of a sandy shoal. Continue reading
Our kids light our lives and make our heart’s happy.
This was Blake’s quote of the day, that just happened now. The great thing about living on a boat with your family is you get to enjoy every little bit of everything and it is all so real. I’ve got to love my little man because all he thinks about is fishing. The wakes up and starts fishing (he’s 3). He fishes until we tell him to stop and we are driving the boat or doing something else. He fishes before and after his nap and until the sun goes down, sometimes after. He takes his pole with him when we ride in the dinghy and he would take it with us when we ride the bus. He catches 8-25 fish per day and he consumes a majority seafood diet. We think he was made for the water.
Bianca is another story. It’s about 45 minutes till sunset and she is singing “la cucaracha” on the dock while she cleans all of her seashells that she located today. We found a great number in a bird estuary that we reached via our dinghy and some impressive driving by the Captain. It was only 1.5 feet in most places be somehow we found a way to get into those beaches. B wandered around and found so many great shells. She found several sea scallops (with live meat) and a living clam. We almost had enough for dinner but left them for the birds because we’ve had steak sitting in the cooler for 4 nights and it was high time to eat it after high tide came in. Anyway, this girl is a mermaid and she believes that they are real. Christmas still exists on our boat in so many ways. Continue reading
We get up when the light coming throughout he porthole above our bed is blazing through our eyelids, usually about 6:30. I rarely wear pants anymore and I’m never late, I just don’t have anywhere to be. I’m off the daily pot (or two of coffee) but not by my own choice, it’s just to hot to have more than a cup. Aside from my new nemesis Franklin the Pelican that sits on the bow staring at me, judging me, life is good. I don’t know why he stares he isn’t wearing any pants either.
Some things haven’t changed, Blake is still up by 7 making demands and listing off the things that he forgot to tell me that he destroyed yesterday such as “Sister and I added little crabs to all sister’s body spray” “I pooped and now the toilet is angry” or “Have you seen my fish? I lost him in my room before dinner…”
Over the past month we have really started to learn how to live and feel like we are living. The kids haven’t watched any kind of TV or video games in over two weeks. Our fun consist of collecting and identifying local wildlife and they love it.
There are defiantly some down sides.. We have to hunt down a marina that has washer and dryers and just hope that the dryer works. The galley burner takes a short 45 minutes to brown ground beef and our freezer is the size of a shoe box. That is no exaggeration!
Naughty children cannot be ignored which in the long run is probably a good thing, but in the short term drives both Robb and I nuts! The internet is a little dodgy and the sunsets are nightly and never missed, so just like anything else in life there are trade offs. We are almost a full month in and I am still feeling good about our choice to be a live aboard family.