Thursday, December 29, 2016

Dinghy Ride Time

The Ernie T

Since the wind decided to take a day off we took the Ernie T out for a spin in the calm conditions. We putted out of Boot Key Harbor and then headed south down Sister's Creek toward the Atlantic. Half way through Sister's Creek we followed a pretty branch off to the west and into the mangroves. With the Tohatsu outboard tilted up into the shallow water position we enjoyed the quiet solitude of the mangroves.

Returning to the main Creek we headed farther south past Sombrero Beach and followed the channel markers out onto the Atlantic. Once we were in slightly deeper water we turned right and headed out to West Sister's Rock. After anchoring the Ernie T we waded ashore to check out the tiny island.

The island is mostly rock with a few spots of sand and some really tenacious shrubs holding on for dear life. Shells are imbedded in the rock as well as the fossilized shapes of plants and animals. It is really interesting to wander around and find all their different shapes.

Sponge bowl drying out.

If you get the chance to check out West Sister's Rock, wear some rough surface shoes and make sure you have a dinghy anchor. You won't find a spot to beach your dinghy on this island. The best spot to access the island is on the northwest corner.


Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas Everyone

Christmas Morning Rainbow

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to our family and friends old and new. We are spending Christmas Day in Boot Key Harbor with a cruiser's pot luck luncheon. It will be nice to celebrate Christmas with about 100 other sailors, many who have already become good friends.

We hope Santa brought you exactly what you hoped for this year. We have received everything we could have hoped for - a chance to seize our dream of cruising while meeting so many great people and yet remaining close to those who have always been so important to us.

Merry Christmas to all.


Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Good and the Bad

Brenda working with the kids.

The Good;

The cruising community at Boot Key Harbor is an amazing group of people. Last year they donated enough money to purchase, assemble and distribute 26 bicycles and helmets to needy kids for Christmas. How cool was that? Well, this year they have outdone themselves and assembled over 30 new bicycles and helmets. Saturday was the harbor kids' Christmas Party. One couple decorated their boat to look like Santa's sleigh. Santa motored into the marina to greet all the kids during their party, much to the youngest ones' amazement.

Brenda was in her element helping the harbor kids decorate stockings and mooring balls. It may be 80 plus degrees here, but the feeling of Christmas is still in the air.

Brenda has been successfully pull starting the dinghy motor and is now a little more comfortable going on her own with the Ernie T. Doesn't she look cute in her little blue "car"? She always wanted a convertible.

The Bad;

Boat repairs, boat repairs and more boat repairs. Wrinkles has decided that she wants some extra attention lately so our goof off time has been reduced. Our battery banks aren't keeping up due to tired batteries and a refrigeration wiring issue causing high amperage draws. We purchased new batteries and found the corrosion issue in the refrigerator connections. Two days later the accessory fan providing additional fresh air to the condensing unit began to howl with bad bearings. Mike has removed the fan from the circuit until the replacement is received.

When Mike installed the new batteries he decided the ground wires from the batteries to the negative bus bars weren't sufficient. He will upgrade those wires tomorrow. We are adding a fourth solar panel to give us nearly 500 watts of power. Mike is just about done mounting this panel on top of the bimini. This, combined with the increased size of the new batteries, should help our power needs in the future. The bent davit still isn't back from the welding shop, so our largest solar panel continues to hang from straps on one side.

In the mean time our home looks like a hoarder's dream. Because our battery banks are under the quarter-berth, lovingly called "The Attic", everything stored there had to be moved. So, all that stuff is now filling up our cabin space. Wrinkles normally feels quite homey and comfortable. Right now it is just feels like an overstuffed storage unit.

Hopefully in the next couple of days we will get all our projects completed and get back to just the "good stuff".


Saturday, December 17, 2016

Dinghy Drift Drone Photo

Dinghy drift in Boot Key Harbor

This awesome picture was taken by one of the cruisers participating in the dinghy drift we told you about in our last post. You can see the dinghies grouping up as the sun was setting. Beautiful.


Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Busy, busy days.

Fishing trap Christmas tree.


You would think being retired and living on a sailboat would be a slow and unhurried lifestyle. It can be, but most days we end up running out of time to do everything we want to do. The last few days are good examples. We went to the marina in the morning to take showers and a couple of loads of laundry. Brenda took her pine needle basket making stuff and I took in the iPad to download some movies.

Bret on Elusive called to see if we could get together to work on splicing some loops in his lines. He met us ashore so we could practice a couple splices. We had some fun, but the splices were anything but a success. So, we made plans to meet up at their boat for cocktails and appetizers. We enjoyed a nice evening of sundowners together and then Brenda and I dinghied back to Wrinkles. We watched a couple of episodes of Downton Abbey on the iPad before going to bed.

Bret and Mike struggling with splicing.

The next day we went for a nice bike ride to check on the welder who is repairing our bent davit and to a bike shop to get a new tube for one of the bikes. We installed the tube and hopped back on the bikes to pedal against 20 knot winds toward the Vaca Cut Bridge. The kids, Mom and Karen are all coming to visit in a few weeks and we wanted to look over a condo they were considering to stay in. Our legs got a really good workout, but the condo was a good find. We stopped in the condo rental office and placed a deposit on the condo.

Once we got back to the marina we got cleaned up to meet two other couples at Hurricanes for happy hour and cheap wings. By the time we got back to Wrinkles we were pretty well worn out. Still had to watch a couple more episodes of Downton Abbey. That series is addictive.

Sunday morning we enjoyed breakfast with Brian and Lynn (Midori) and Bill and Denise (Brandy Girl) at the American Legion. Once back at the marina we made plans to have dinner aboard Elusive. The dinner was wonderful as well as the sunset.

Monday we biked up to Brutus Seafood to purchase some shrimp. Later Brenda dinghied in to the marina to work with some other volunteers prepping for the children's Christmas part. I went to Elusive to help Bret work on his bow thruster issue. After everyone's projects were completed we hosted Bret and Theresa aboard Wrinkles for Shrimp Pesto Pasta. To top the evening off we tasted some of Mom's Caramels and Brandy Balls. To end the evening we --- you know what is coming right?--- we watched two episodes of Downton Abbey.

Enjoying Mom's treats.

Tuesday morning we picked Bret and Theresa up in our dinghy to shuttle them to shore. They had rented a car to go to Key West Customs and Immigration office. We rode to Key West with them and shared a great lunch at the Conch Republic before indulging ourselves with a Key Lime Pie dipped in dark chocolate and frozen on a popsicle stick at Kermits.

Mike peeking at Marilyn.
Hemmingway's home.

We wandered a few streets and of course had our picture taken at the famous Southermost Point. It is a two hour bus ride back to Marathon and we hoped to get back early enough to participate in a dinghy float scheduled for 5 pm. We jumped on the 3 pm bus and enjoyed the scenery as we tried to keep our eyes open.

We hopped off the bus and went directly to our boat to grab a dish to pass, sweatshirts and something to drink. As we motored over to the assembled dinghys the sun was setting and it promised a beautiful sunset. About 35 dinghies all tied together haphazardly passing various appetizers around and around. People were meeting friends old and new as the laughter and chatter flowed out. The sunset was indeed a thing of beauty as the red colors blazed while several of the cruisers honored the sunset with blasts from their Conch shells. Opposite the amazing sunset there was a bright full moon competing for our attention. Truly a memorable time.

Approaching the raft up group.

Here is a 13 second video of one of the Conch salutes.

Once we separated from the remaining floaters we had a nice slow quiet dinghy ride around the harbor on glass smooth water. We admired the festive Christmas lights on a number of boats including Wrinkles. What a great day it has been. After a couple more episodes of Downton Abbey we were totally exhausted and ready for bed.

Wrinkles all lit up.

What will we do tomorrow?


Sunday, December 11, 2016

Playing in Marathon

Biking on the Gulf side.

We are having a ball checking out Marathon. We walk and bike around Vaca Key slowly trying out all the restaurants and sightseeing. It is fun to meet each new day with almost nothing on the calendar that needs to be done. We do occasionally have tentative plans to meet other cruisers for lunch, dinghy cruises, sundowners, walks or fishing. But, most of the time we get up in the morning and eat breakfast before listening to the Cruiser's Net on the VHF radio. Then we just decide what we feel like doing. Yup, it is pretty rough duty.

We went for a dinghy cruise with two other couples and enjoyed a day of snacking and talking. A day fishing aboard Roger and Peggy's Mainship called Never Say Never was a good education for Mike on trolling and rigging for larger fish. The fishing wasn't real successful, but it was a fun day anyway. Bike rides and walks to restaurants and stores help to get us some exercise.

Happy Birthday Brenda.

Brenda celebrated (well maybe tolerated is a better word) her 60th birthday on November 11. The kids along with Karen and Peter bought her a Stand Up Paddle Board. She grinned like a little kid as she tried it out for the first time.

Mike's mom Dee sent us a package at the marina. We each received a baggy full of our favorite Christmas treats. Brandy Balls for Mike and Caramels for Brenda. It is taking great restraint not to eat them all in one sitting.

We signed up to attend the Christmas dinner for all the boaters in Boot Key Harbor. Apparently they cook a whole bunch of turkeys up and all the attendees bring a potluck dish. It will be fun to spend the day with so many other sailors.

So many fun things already and we haven't even scratched the surface. It is a good thing we have lots of time to keep playing.


Sunday, December 4, 2016

A normal morning?

Manatees in Boot Key Harbor

What started out as a jaunt to breakfast turned into one of the highlights of our trip so far.

The American Legion puts on a fantastic breakfast every Sunday morning. Friends had invited us to try it out, and we were glad they did. For $7 each we received a huge ultimate omelet (cheese, sausage, ham, peppers, onions, mushrooms) home fries, toast, juice and coffee or tea. It was delicious. We went with Lynn and Brian of Midori, who we had met on the hard at Charlotte Harbor Boat Storage. The conversation was fun and the laughs flowed freely. Afterwards, we huddled around our VHF and listened to the morning net which is always informative and entertaining.

And then it happened. We saw someone looking over the edge of the dinghy dock. Sure enough there was a manatee. No....make that three manatees!!! There was Mom, Dad and Baby Manatee. They are so ugly they are cute. The baby was next to the dock rolling over on its back to get to the good stuff under the dock. It was so close we could have touched it. We showed great restraint as we know that you are not supposed to touch or feed the manatees. Seeing the scars on their backs from propellers, we know why.

Click on each of the four links for short videos.

The manatee did a great job of cleaning off the edge and underside of the dock. It was scraping off barnacles, mullosks and slime. Then it would spit out what it didn't like.


While the one manatee was next to the dock, the mother and baby floated peacefully in the middle of the channel. Sometimes the baby would rest on the mom's tail.

We watched for ten to fifteen minutes. We just couldn't break ourselves away from the show. Finally the three started heading back into the harbor, so we got back in our dinghy and carefully motored out. We had to put the motor in neutral one time because one of them turned and went right under our dinghy!

What a wonderful way to start our day! Maybe they will be there when we dinghy back in to watch the Packers.


Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Life in Marathon on a Mooring Ball

We've only been in Boot Key Harbor for a few days now, but we can already see why it is so popular. Beautiful weather, protected mooring area, nice dinghy docks, numerous facilities, parks all around, restaurants/bars in easy walking distance and most of all a wonderful friendly community of boaters.

The Cruiser's Net (VHF Channel 68) starts at 9 am each morning. Information, advice, assistance and support are freely offered to everyone in the Harbor. What a neat community. They are currently fundraising for Christmas bikes to be given to local children in need. Last year they gave away 26 brand new bikes. That is a lot of smiling faces on Christmas morning.

Faro Blanco lighthouse

Sharing company on each other's boats for sundowners and snacks is also a regular event. We all share a common interest in boating and many are cruisers just like us. We share stories and look for information on all of our destinations. A cold beer, wine or rum sure goes well with good company.

Dinner aboard Asilomar

We have visited a few of the local restaurants and have found that the frugal cruiser can eat out at a reasonable cost. You just have to be picky in what you order and definitely look for the happy hour specials. Burdines food was reasonable and very tasty. The Stuffed Pig has awesome breakfasts. The Overseas was a little more expensive, but their happy hour specials are pretty good. $2 for a draft beer and $3 for a rail mixed drink. We also ate at the Faro Blanco Marina with our sailing friend Tinsley aboard Salty Abandon. She warned us it was expensive there, but we shared lunch with her in the marina restaurant. Not outrageously expensive, but a bit more than we like to spend. (unless you are paying for one of their slips - $165/night) Good food though. Check out Salty Abandon's video blog on YouTube.

Brenda and Tinsley in front of Salty Abandon.

Brenda met one of her heros, Carolyn Shearlock of The Boat Galley fame. We dinghied over to her boat and purchased a signed copy of her cookbook. I'm not used to seeing Brenda in awe of someone, but Carolyn is someone Brenda really admires.

Now we need to explore the river by dinghy, go fishing and just keep exploring. Heck, that is just what we want to do on this Key. There are a whole bunch more that we haven't even seen yet.