Days 225-244; February 5 – 24, 2016
Total Miles Traveled: 2482
From Faro Blanco Marina on Vaca Key (Marathon) to 411 Sombrero Beach Road to Sombrero Dockside Marina. Note: we have traveled one whole mile East to the Atlantic side of the Key since our last post.
It has been a long stretch and a great deal has happened but mostly February has been a month of sharing our adventure and celebrating with family and friends as well as creative problem solving.
Debbie and Tom Littlepage landed a third visit of their promised once per quarter trips to meet us wherever we are: Pentwater in August, Gulfport FL in December and Marathon in February. We had a great time even though the weather was far from Florida’s finest. An overnight trip to Key West in their rental cargo van and sleeping in a great hotel bed were treats, even in the pouring rain.
Next, a big part of our clan spent their winter break here on Marathon. Per long term planning, thirteen of us shared a beautiful vacation rental home complete with three kitchens and a pool. Mike, Veta, Liam, Klava as well as Elena, Michael and Vanya from Veta’s family, Curt, Brooke, Leonie and Cedar enjoyed ten days of gorgeous summer weather in paradise. The Namaste rested quietly on the canal behind the house along with a go-fast, center-cockpit boat that Curt captained for long trips through the canals and out into the ocean.
The sunsets were spectacular but wind and waves got in the way of ocean snorkeling. Other highlights included another trip to Key West; a visit to the Turtle Hospital (more later); Jim riding along in the golf cart with Mike at Doral; meals at the Outpost, Burdines, the Sunset Grill and Blue Heaven – all highly recommended if ever you are in the Keys.
Boat buddies Ron, Vickie and their daughter Voni, who was visiting from Seattle came for dinner cooked by Curt and Brooke with Klava creating a memorable Valentines Day celebration for all. On our final morning together Veta arranged the first annual Pirate Pancake Breakfast by the pool with her friend “Mo” orchestrating sword-fighting lessons, battering of a piñata, and tattoo art. You can only begin to imagine Liam’s delight! Leonie ignored the pirate but with life jacket and often sans bathing suit jumped in over her head and swam like a fish alongside beautiful mermaid Klava. Cedar enjoyed his first dip in the pool and fell asleep to the hum of the boat engine more than once and loved Mom carrying him nonstop in the Boba – sleep, feed, sleep, feed. Thanks Vanya for your ongoing entertainment of the children, you have amazing talent and patience. Leonie is clearly in love!
Going or is it coming back from snorkeling?
My favorite part of the week was simply floating around the pool in conversation with various subsets of the group. It was tough to say good-by at the end of a week we had been anticipating since we left Lake Michigan. Once they were packed into three vans headed to Fort Lauderdale and with tears in our eyes we once again boarded the Namaste, charted our way through the channels to Boot Key and arrived at the Dockside Marina where we napped until bedtime.
More about the Marathon Turtle Hospital: This is the largest of 12 turtle hospitals in the country and a wealth of turtle history and information. There are five species of Sea Turtles clearly threated by: ingesting or tangling in man-made objects (fishing line, plastic bags and balloons, etc.); tumors created by toxins dumped into the ocean absorbed by the plants the turtles eat; and finally gashes to their shell or flippers due to boat props. The turtle hospital and their two ambulances rescue sick or injured turtles anywhere, bring them to the hospital for treatment and release them as long as they have at least one eye and three flippers. The hospital is staffed by marine biology interns and veterinarians from the community (including the vet who gave Sammy her annual physical today) who treat the turtles and do surgery several times per week. There are currently 73 turtles in care. A few are permanent residents but most will ultimately return to the wild where they reportedly adapt back immediately. Among other interesting facts, the female turtle houses the male sperm and determines the best time to fertilize her own eggs before depositing them on a sand beach. They will never reproduce in captivity.
Now, a few thoughts about our boating life-style challenges. Since my last post I lost my iphone and have been besieged by noseeum bites. Neither of these are life-threatening and could happen anywhere/anytime but resolving them on a boat requires additional creativity.
I believe I left the phone on a restaurant table but when I went back minutes later, it was nowhere to be found and NO, I had not set up the “find my phone” app properly! Thankfully Debbie was with me and knew exactly what to do – wipe the phone and report to Verizon who turned off the service and connected me to the insurance company which I mindlessly and thankfully must have purchased. For $149 I had a new phone the next day and everything important was saved to the cloud. However, due to a poor internet connection and even worse phone service it took me a full day to maneuver the various help systems including my own Noah Goldsmith to get everything downloaded (a word with which I have an ongoing love/hate relationship)!
Secondly, the noseeums are prevalent and viscous, particularly anywhere near the mangroves. Apparently I have a sensitivity to the acid they leave on the skin and develop welts/blisters at every bite site. There are as many prevention/treatment options as there are people but if you have suggestions please send them along as I am keeping a running list (stay tuned). At the moment treatment has included a prednisone injection at the local clinic, Benadryl to sleep, and cortisone cream. Prevention is somewhat trickier but local knowledge has it that vanilla coconut oil heavily and frequently applied to the skin is the best deterrent. I add heavy duty bug spray over the oil which creates a greasy mess and I smell like a fruity drink. Oh yes and we have purchased and stitched noseeum screening over our regular hatch screens which are then sprayed with screen insect spary. Apparently the best prevention is a strong wind as they hide (who knows where) and leave the people alone. Today it is windy!!!
Other challenges include a rejected debit card pin number (after a mile walk one way to an ATM machine); getting a diver to clean the barnacles off the bottom of the boat and three trips to West Marine to add the right zincs (important sacrificial metal to prevent the deterioration of the Namaste’s prop and shaft); purchasing and filling a rare and heavy propane tank with no easy transportation; taping and painting the decks and then touching up the edges where the tape pulls off the old paint. I am trying not to whine but rather to impress you with the everyday challenges of the simple life.
Another observation that requires comment is the amazing number and variety of boats here in the Keys. It is clearly a lifestyle of choice. One of our favorite past-times is to peruse Boot Key Harbor in our dinghy where there are 60 mooring balls (all full) and almost as may anchored boats. One reason for the overflow is that the weather has prevented many boaters from taking off for the Bahamas this month so everything has backed-up here in the Keys. That is where Jim is right now – makes for fun yacht shopping.
We aren’t sure about our next leg but will probably stay on Marathon and enjoy the sun for another week or so, then begin to move up the Keys toward Miami.
Quote of the day: “Pee jumped right through the pull-up and landed on my jammies” -Leonie
Boat Name Theme of the day: Star Gazer, Morning Star, Evening Star, Star Rising, Starlight, Wanderin’ Star, Stardust, Wishing Star, Star Fish, Sea Star
Bad Boat Name of the day: Don’t have one this time
Happy Birthday to Colleen Sinclair, Ollie Sinclair and Shawn McFall