On March 7, we were back in the Keys, off Isla Morada. Jim and Lynda, of Morningstar, were in Marathon, a favourite hangout of theirs but not one of ours. There were too many boats there for us.
We had Happy Hours at the Lorelei with friend Alan Robinson from Tavernier and Janet and Steve McDonald of Burlington, Ontario. When the wind got choppy, we moved over to Cotton Key for shelter. I made bread; we explored in the dinghy, and enjoyed this special time by ourselves.
When the wind direction changed to the east, we moved back in front of the Lorelei. Richard dropped me off at the little beach up the clear creek where fish swam beneath us, behind the library. I caught up on emails while he refilled the fuel and water jugs at the nearby marina.
The Lorelei was the spot in Key Largo where all the tourists and boaters met. It was in the Lorelei that we got to know Simone and Jerry, of the houseboat Special Treat. We had met and danced with them at the block party when we were docked in LaBelle. They too had been together, unmarried, for ten years. One night, after Richard and I landed a scarce table near the bar, I saw a young couple standing too far from the bar to get served, with no place to sit down. I asked if they would like to join us. They gratefully accepted, bought us a round of drinks and showed us pictures of the two babies they had left up north with Granny while they had a short getaway. They shared their hopes and dreams with us, and we gave them advice from our experience. I suspect they ignored the warnings about going into debt to buy a large catamaran.
After a week we moved to the next bay north along the Intracoastal, which we call Sponge Boat Bay, after the sponge boats stored there. We learned from one of the live-aboards, who works on a tourist pirate ship in the area, that the official name is Postcard Bay, after the hotel across the Overseas Highway. He said that is what had been written on the ticket he got for not having the registration numbers spaced properly on his little houseboat.
After a few days we sailed farther north to the bay between the channel into Tavernier and toilet seat pass. We went into Alan’s dock and loaded up with water. He drove me to the laundromat and to get groceries. Every Keys cruiser needs a shore friend like that!
The anchorage was isolated and we were able to swim without swimsuits around the boat in perfectly clear water. The only downside to that anchorage was returning in our dinghy from dinner at Steve and Janet’s condo in the dark through that long unlit channel. Powerboats flew through there with no regard for little dinghies that they could not see. One came bursting into the channel through our little cut-off just as we were about to enter it. It would have sunk us if Richard had not passed the cut-off to make sure it was clear before he entered it.
Frank Pappas, author of a Keys cruising guide was a guest at that dinner. I traded my book for an adventure novel set in the Keys that he had also written, and ended up reading it to Richard in the evenings. The sex was a bit over the top, and it could have used a good editor, but Richard loved it.
Our next anchorage was Tarpon Basin, off Key Largo, a favourite spot of ours. Jim and Lynda caught up to us there, and we resumed taking turns hosting each other for dinners. We had been watching episodes of Castle that my son Mike had downloaded for me in the evenings and continued to do that until we had seen them all.
One night we went to a presentation on sea turtles in the auditorium at the Munroe County building.. When explorers first arrived in Key West the turtles were so numerous that iy was difficult to anchor. Now, after a couple of hundred years of indiscriminate slaughter to supply turtle soup to Europe, they have all but disappeared. But many still come back to lay their eggs on both coasts of Florida, and concerned people are trying to make that safer for them.
In the dinghy, we toured the shady little mangrove creeks that flow through the otherwise impenetrable mangrove islands in Tarpon Basin. Then I spent three blissful days away from the powerboats, sitting in the dinghy which I had tied up to the mangroves, painting them in all of their tangled grace.
On March 31, we sailed north to Sand Key, Jim and Lynda following in Morning Star. Sand Key is just north of the long narrow strip of parkland called Elliott Key. Together they form most of the barrier between Biscayne Bay, which is thirty-five miles long and up to eight miles wide in spots, and the Atlantic Ocean. We got there about two-thirty p.m., crept in as close as we could to land and dropped our hooks. We were the only boats anchored there and the first order of business was a swim in the clear Bahamas-blue water. Our bathing suits stayed dry. Drinks were on our boat before both crews retreated behind their screens to avoid the mosquitoes.
The next day we sailed to No Name Harbor where, to our surprise, only a half-dozen sailboats and one power-boat were anchored. Later more would come, and the harbour was packed all weekend. I got my bathing suit wet for the first time all winter and swam around the boat.
Some large power boats ran their generators or motors 24/7 at anchor to keep the booze cold, the air conditioner running and the music playing. The result was often unhealthy fumes and noise for those nearby. One anchored right next to us and when we went to bed the noise was deafening. A man on a nearby boat with two little kids had his parents visiting and had complained about the fumes, to no avail. I got up, pointed my flashlight at the man on the bow and asked him if he was planning to run the motor all night.
He said he was. I said, “It’s too loud. I can’t sleep.”
He shouted back, “Move if you don’t like it.”
The he suggested where I could put my flashlight – in an orifice on my body where I knew it wouldn’t fit. I explained that there were many other people on boats around him who couldn’t sleep either and that he should go to a more isolated anchorage or tie up at a dock where he could plug into power. Then I retreated. He didn’t seem to be the kind of person who would listen to suggestions. However, the friends rafted to him left a few minutes later, and he followed. Blessed silence and sleep.
I did laundry the next day and we dined at the seafood restaurant ashore. The day after that we motored north to the little lake at Baker’s Haulover Inlet in North Miami, between Florida International University and Oleta River State Park. And there, as I prepared to drop the anchor, our trip made an abrupt and prolonged stop.
More to follow in Part II of this update