Update, April 18, 2012 Winter in the Keys

At the end of the last update, we had decided to go to the Bahamas and store the boat there, no matter how late in the season the next window came.

We missed seeing Richard’s family at March Break, as they already had a full schedule before we knew we would still be here.

The wind kept blowing, so it wasn’t possible to cross the Gulf Stream.

I was worried that we hadn’t heard from Vonny and Ray in a while. We went to Tarpon Basin, where it is easier to get to shore and get groceries and water, do laundry and dump the garbage.

Alan from Sinbad had his boat in a channel next to his house, and continued to be our “shore crew”, going to West Marine to pick up stuff for us, as well as helping in many other ways. We feel very lucky to have this kind of a friend in the neighbourhood.

Most evenings, we sit outside and watch the sunset, and look at the dark sweeping in around us. Sometimes, it is all the entertainment we need. Sometimes we run the generator and watch a movie.

I called Vonny and Ray’s son Jesse and he said Vonny and Ray and their friends Sue and Bill had been caught in a gale on the way to Cuba from Mexico. Finally, on March 18, Vonny called to say that she and Ray planned to come back to the States and store their boat in Indiantown. When I asked her where they would go next year, she said, “We’ll keep going north. We won’t be cruising anymore.”

After a lot of thought, I suggested to Richard that perhaps we should go to Marathon and cruise north with Vonny and Ray. It could be our last chance to cruise with them. We agreed we would forego the Bahamas this year.

So the past month has been spent in the Keys, trying to anchor as far off the beaten path as we can – especially that noisy beaten path known as Highway One, or the Overseas Highway – while we wait for Wishbone to arrive from Cuba.

Mark, Richard’s friend from Toronto area, is new to cruising, and has stayed in Tarpon Basin for three months. We feared his 25-foot Volkboat had put out roots, and we were happy when he sailed here with us. He is planning to cross to the Bahamas while we continue south to meet Vonny and Ray on Wishbone.

When we made our unsuccessful foray towards the Bahamas, the prop started making a racket, another reason for turning back. Alan took Richard to Mother Ocean, a consignment store for boaters. They found a bigger prop there, which we sent out to Frank and Jimmy’s Prop Shop in Fort Lauderdale. It came back in less than a week, completely reconditioned. Alan fitted Richard up with a small air tank and a hose and regulator. Richard went under the boat, removed the old prop and put the new one on. It wasn’t easy, and he came up for frequent breaks. The pin on the old prop had completely sheered off, lengthwise. The new prop is a better size for the boat, and is working well, so we are happy.

Travelling with Chris and Divya of Maggie M was a real treat. I met them in late 2003, just after Zlatko came to Fort Lauderdale to sail with me. They were part of the 12 people and a dog (everyone in the Los Olas mooring field at the time) who came for dinner on My Detour one night. Chris happened to be sitting by the BBQ, so he cooked the meat that everyone had bought with them for the event.

This year, they met us in the anchorage off Lorelei Restaurant in Isla Morada. We went to Happy Hour together and watched the magic show. We dinghied about three miles to Lignum Vitae Key, using both dinghies, and picnicked and took the guided tour. We learned much about the history and flora of that area, while swatting and dancing around to avoid the very small and hungry fauna. Most of the keys are well-sprayed to keep the tourists comfortable, but not the areas that are natural preserves. Another day, we stopped at the Elliot Key park headquarters, expecting a tour. But the tour was self-guided, with information boards along the way. I couldn’t do the walk because I had missed the bottom step in the boat the day before and could barely walk. Chris, soaked in a camp staffer’s Deet, made it all the way around. Divya and Richard turned around after a short walk and ran back, waving their arms around and brushing off mosquitoes.

One night, anchored off Sand Key, we were hit by a thunderstorm that had our boat heeled over and dragging. I ran forward in the dark and the driving rain to let the anchor out ore so it would reset, while Richard held us in position with the motor running. Maggie M didn’t move, but they were up, and it was comforting to check on each other on the VHF radio.

Almost every day, we swam in the crystal blue-green water around our boats, and most of the days here are sunny and beautiful.

In Sponge Boat Harbor, we went over to the resort with the happy hour in the sky-high tiki huts, and sipped our drinks while taking in the view of the ocean and getting blasted by the wind. We shared our meals on one boat or the other, and happy hours were quite religiously observed.

We parted after enjoying Happy Hour in Coconut Grove, and a night on the ill-placed moorings at Dinner Key Marina in Miami. (They are out in Biscayne Bay.) Maggie M went to a symphony concert in South Beach, Miami, and we headed over to No Name Harbour to get out of the wind and do our laundry januvia online. No Name keeps getting crazier and crazier on the weekends. When we entered on Friday there were five other sailboats anchored. By Sunday morning when we headed south again, four or five hundred power boats had come and some had gone. The people on them had swam, drank and partied. None of the people in the water had been run over, and no one had drowned, although a little boy whose parents weren’t paying attention came close.

Then we went slowly south to Tarpon Basin, where we persuaded Mark to come with us to Sponge Boat Harbour again, where the wind blew 20 knots and more in the gusts. Now we are anchored off Lorelei, which is at Islamorada, and looking forward to great chicken wings tonight.

Maybe one more update, when we meet up with Vonny and Ray and get to Indiantown.

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