Islamorada And The Keys

It has been great being down in the Keys again this winter.  A lot of the same people are at the marina that were here last year and also a few new ones.  Lot of great people.

We went to the restaurant Hog Heaven and they have a small bay in front of the outdoor dining area.  Boats come in and dock and have something to eat and leave.  In the evening they have underwater lights and it makes it real easy to see the fish swimming around.  People will toss in French fries and chicken wings and the fish make a mad dash for the food.  I am not sure how good it is for them but they keep eating it.

Daughter Donna and her husband Jon were down right after New Years for a long weekend.  It was great to have them and we all went to the Dolphin Research Center on Grassy Key north of Marathon for the shows.  They demonstrate their communication skills with the Dolphins and have the dolphins do various routines.  We did not go for Swimming with the Dolphins but there was a fairly large group of ladies that were right next to where we were sitting that went in the water and had the dolphins pull them around.  They also do animal rescues in the Keys for manatees and sea lions that get into trouble.  A good show on protecting the animals in the keys.

After the Dolphin Research Center we went to Marathon for lunch on the patio of the Key Fisheries Restaurant.  Great view of Florida Bay and the weather was clear and bright.  Got some good pictures of the pelicans there.

I also have pictures of what I called the Ghost Ship. It is a large wooden yacht that is originally from Michigan.  They needed to fumigate it to get rid of termites.  You might be able to see Orkin on the red tarps.  Sure was a strange site to see a boat covered in tarps floating.

This last Sunday the park had a Bluegrass Festival.  Quite a show that was pretty well attended.  They also had vendor booths where you could by food and souvenirs.  Not necessarily my kind of music but kind of fun to listen to when Candy and I were out walking.  You can see some of the festivities in the pictures.  They were supposed to end at 6:00 but they were still playing at 8:30 when Candy and I went out for her last walk of the day.

Beautiful day today and we took a road trip to Marathon to see if we could track down Pete and Carolyn from the boat Humbug.  Well we did find them and spent some time just catching up on things as we had not seen them for about 6 weeks while they were going home and an assortment of other visiting.  They are doing well and it was good to see them again.

Calusa Island Yacht Club, Goodland, FL to Plantation Yacht Harbor, Islamorada, FL — December 23, 2013

Big day today as we hopefully will get to the Keys.  We again will be staying at Plantation Yacht Harbor in Islamorada. We will be there until around March 1, 2014 before we start north on the Atlantic side of Florida.

We had a good time at Calusa Island Yacht Club.  We stayed a couple of extra days because of the winds on Florida Bay.  Most of the time they were blowing out of the southeast at about 20 knots and southeast is the direction we were headed in.  today they are forecast for southeast but 11 to 16 mph. We really need to move today because the weather forecast (winds) are not good for the next week if we don’t make the Keys today.

The sky was clear and the temps were low 70’s at 7:00.  The wind seemed a little strong but not enough to slow us down.  Once we departed we headed out the Big Marco River to Florida Bay.  We went on plane about 2 miles out into the bay once the water depths got to about 8′.  It is still hard to get used to the shallower water down here.  I think Florida Bay averages probably 10′ to 14′ in a lot of areas and we were near the 10,000 Islands on the north portion near Everglades National Park.

The water chop was not too bad and it did get better as we got closer to the west shore of the Florida peninsula.  We followed the Everglades National Park markers down to East Cape where we took the Yacht Channel down to the ICW at the Keys.  We entered the ICW about 20 miles south of Islamorada.

We had lots of crab pot markers today and the worst part was in the early part of the drive because we were almost headed into the sun and it is extremely difficult to see the markers that way.  After we started along the Everglade Park Markers it was a little later and the sun was higher and we were headed a little more south. The markers in the ICW were plentiful but they seemed more manageable this year.  Maybe because we had less boat traffic to deal with also.

The wind was up near the Keys but the water was not bad and we made good time. We were on the water about 6 hours today for the 112 miles we travelled so we did really good. It was good to see the familiar faces at Plantation Yacht Harbor.  There a quite a few of the same boats here that were last winter.  We met some other people on a boat here from St. Clair Shores.

With our down time now I will do a few posts but probably not quite as regular as when we are travelling.

Lenore and I wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.


Naples Boat Club, Naples, FL to Calusa Island Yacht Club, Goodland, FL — December 19, 2013

Great morning for travelling today.  A little chilly to start the day but the sky was cloudless and the breeze was light.

We started out about 9:00 which was about an hour after low tide.  We cruised down the river and started into the inside route to Marco Island.  We weren’t 100′ in when we started turning up bottom.  I immediately turned to port and we turned around.  Once we were headed back to the channel we were in deeper water but I was in the marked channel so the low tide took out a lot of water.  The moon has been mostly full so the tides are bigger.  We headed out Gordon Pass and turned south on the Gulf of Mexico toward Marco Island.

Last year we went the inside route on the Big Marco River to get to Florida Bay. The water was pretty skinny in the river so based on our turning mud earlier today we stayed outside past Marco Island.  Ramono Reef is south of Marco Island and we went about 7 miles south to get thru the shallows and even then I saw 4.5′ of water under the boat while we were crossing the reef area.

The winds were stronger down in this area and there was a good 2′ to 3′ chop on the water but once we got thru the reef area we turned north toward Calusa Island and the southeast winds were providing a little push. The water in Florida Bay is shallow and after we crossed the reef I do not think we saw more than 14′ under the boat and most of it was 5′ to 7′.

Calusa Island is our alternate to Everglade City where we stayed last year.  We were rocked by the fisherman leaving at 4:00 in the morning in Everglade City so we tried something else this year.  Calusa Island Yacht Club has some very good ratings on Active Captain and so far I agree with all the favorable ratings.

Calusa Island Yacht Club is located adjacent to Goodland Florida and only a few miles east of Marco Island.  The Big Marco River goes by and empties into Florida Bay from here. Lots of boats here and this is somewhat a suburb of Marco Island.  I talked to the dock master today and there are 24 liveaboards at the marina and most of the slips are full.  There is not a lot of water depth around here as you can see from the sailboat picture.  The docks are nice concrete floating docks with pump out available at all the slips.

We ate on board last night but tonight we will go into Goodland for dinner.  It is a small town but has several restaurants.  We will get a ride in from the Marina Manager when he leaves for the day.  We will walk back to the boat if we cannot find a ride, the distance is not too far. Candy and I walked in this afternoon to check it out.

The winds are up today and tomorrows prediction is the same.  We may have a break Sunday or Monday.  I will need to check the forecasts in the morning.

 

Port Sanibel Marina, Fort Myers, FL to Naples Boat Club, Naples, FL — December 13, 2013

Little cool in the morning but the temps warmed nicely with the sun out in a cloudless sky.  There was a light breeze from the northeast.

We departed Port Sanibel Marina about 9:00 and it was hard to leave but we have friends, Jane & Joe in the Naples area that we will see.  Not a lot of boat traffic on the water.  We did see the Florida Fish & Wildlife Officers stop a commercial fishing boat and then the fishing boat moved further south.

As we crossed under the Sanibel Island Causeway the winds seem to increase some and the waves were a little higher.  We stayed between 1 and 2 miles offshore and after we passed Estero Bay (Fort Myers Beach area) we were able to move to about 1 mile offshore.  We had to keep an eye out for the crab trap markers as we were right on the outside edge where the fishermen put them.

The ride was pretty uneventful but there were a few boats near Gordon Pass which is the entrance to Naples Bay and the City of Naples.  It is almost 4 miles from Gordon Pass to Downtown Naples and most of the way there is no speed limit in the channel and every boater feels he needs to go fast in the channel and all the other boats rock in their wake.

There is a lot of nice houses along both sides of the channel and over the last year there has been more construction activity in new homes and remodeling exiting homes all along the shore.

We are staying at the Naples Boat Club that is about 6 blocks from the downtown business district.  Candy and I have walked there on several mornings already.

Our 2nd night at the Naples Boat Club there was a “lighted Boat Parade” on Naples Bay.  The parade started about 3 miles south of us came right by the marina, went up to the highway bridge and turned around and went back.  There were about 30 boats in the parade and everybody comes down to the marinas to party during the parade.  The actual judging was at the marina across from us as the boats went by and there were cash awards for the best boats so there were lot and lots of lights.

We had our friends Jane and Joe down to the marina for the Boat Parade and cocktails and went to the marina restaurant for dinner after.  Very enjoyable evening for all.

We are staying here until Thursday and we have 2 travel days to get to Islamorada but the winds may make the time stretch out some.  We will have to wait and see what actually develops.

Palm Island Marina, Cape Haze, FL to Port Sanibel Marina, Fort Myers, FL — December 6, 2013

It was a quite morning at the marina.  Temps were mid 60’s and the sky was clear and there was no wind. Last night was a lot quieter at the marina.  Although the lighted boat show was still on there were no crowds on the docks or Santa serving alcohol. The lighted boats are leaving the marina today.

I wanted to time the departure with the bridge opening of the Boca Grande Swing Bridge about 4 miles south. The bridge opens on the hour and half hour and has a height clearance of 9’.

We were about a mile north of the bridge when I called the bridge tender and he said that they currently had 14’ of clearance.  The Champ III needs about 12.5’ of clearance.  The bridge tender said to stay to the outside where the clearance is the most.  We went real slow with Lenore watching the clearance and there was about 1’ of clearance as we went under the bridge.

It was a nice day on the water on Gasparilla Sound and Charlotte Harbor. The wind came up some and there was a light chop on the water.  There was a lot of boat traffic
with mostly runabouts that were rental boats. Everybody was enjoying a nice day on the water.

The traffic in the last portion of the ICW near Fort Myers was particularly busy with lots of boats in the channel.  There is no place to go outside the channel and there is no speed limit in this area. There are really some dangerous people out there considering they were in a maybe a 250’ wide channel, the boats were 4 wide and they were going along at about 25 mph. I was glad when we were out of that area.

We arrived at Port Sanibel Marina in early afternoon.  It was good to see Ken and Peggy Watton again.  They are a delightful couple from the Leamington Ontario Area. We first met them in the Georgian Bay at a Looper Rendezvous in July 2006 when they were just starting their Loop.  They are a delightful couple from the Leamington Ontario Area.

Last year we spent a month at Port Sanibel Marina and got to know some of the marina personnel and it was good to see them again. Not much has changed at the marina and we are looking forward to a week at the marina before moving on.

Marina Jack, Sarasota, FL to Palm Island Marina, Cape Haze, FL — December 4, 2013

Great Weather this morning with a cloudless sky and temps in the mid 60’s that will warm to the 80’s. The weather forecast is calling for a chance of rain this afternoon and evening but it sure does not look like it now.

Gave the boat a good hosing down today with fresh water.  I wanted to wash all the salt off the boat surface.  I have been trying to do this after each day we travel.  At least with the last couple of days there has not been a lot of wind and spray so the salt on the boat is minimal.

I did a reasonably long walk to the local CVS today to get our refills on prescriptions.  I tried to get a cab on the way back but never saw a cab. I also stopped by a Whole Foods Store on the way back to the boat as it was in the downtown Sarasota area.  The
location was pretty strange for a grocery store because they are not normally located in the city centers.

We had a nice dinner at the open air restaurant/bar at the Marina last night.  They had live music with a soloist singing 60’s music.  It was really good and a nice way to relax.

The trip today was really a breeze with no major problems.  The traffic on the water was
moderate but most of the boats were small boats so the wakes were not bad.  We did have another Looper follow us, Sun-Drum.  We had travelled with them on the Tennessee River to Chattanooga but we have not seen them since Fairhope Yacht Club on Mobile Bay.  Sun-Drum was a little taller than us and got caught at some of the bridges but was only about a mile behind us when we turned into Palm Island.

Palm Island has a group of boaters in the marina this week that have decorated their boats with lights for the holidays.  There will be a lot of people on the docks tonight with people going from boat to boat. Fortunately we are not on the dock with the decorated boats so we do not have all the people going by the boat. It will be easier to get to bed early.

The Club At Treasure Island, Treasure Island, FL to Marina Jack, Sarasota, FL — December 2, 2013

We had a nice time at the Club at Treasure Island but today was the day to move.  Weather reports called for fog this morning but there really was none, just gray skies. Temps were in the high 60’s and got to the low 70’s during the day.

There was an area of the sky in the south that looked clear and I thought we might catch the sun before the day was over in Sarasota but that never happened.

We had a pretty low tide this morning and the mooring lines on the boat were somewhat tight.  They had loosened up some by the time we were ready to leave because of the rising tide. The difference between last night’s high tide and this mornings low tide was over 3′ which is quite large for the Gulf side of Florida.

The wind was just a hint of a breeze and that was great because we had the open waters of Tampa Bay to cross. One of the areas we crossed near the Sunshine Parkway Bridge was about 6 miles of open water.

Many commercial fishermen were out today and it looked like they were tending to the crab traps along the sides of the ICW.  We must have seen a dozen fishermen boats  along the way and we did not have a long distance to go today. There was a lot of boat traffic with cruisers of all sizes moving in both directions on the ICW.  Some of them were large enough that they needed to wait with the sailboats for the bascule bridges to open. We were short enough that we were able to fit under all the bridges today.

We arrived in Sarasota and are staying at Marina Jack in Downtown Sarasota.  Nice marina with floating concrete docks and all the amenities.  Just as we were getting tied up I noticed that we were about 4 slips away from the trawler Carol Anne.  They had travelled with Humbug but we had never met them.  Well they were just coming back to the boat and they came over and we chatted for a time about the crossing and the trip since then.  They were leaving Carrabelle for the overnight crossing just as we were coming in to C Quarters Marina.

Off Leash, the catamaran we traveled with in the Trent Severn and Lake Michigan had been here last night but left this morning.  We have been chasing them since we got back to the boat in September. I sent Off Leash an email to see what their schedule will be.  Maybe we can meet up along the way.

We will be here for 2 nights before moving further south.

 

 

 

 

Turtle Cove Marina, Tarpon Springs, FL to The Club At Treasure Island, Treasure Island, FL — November 30, 2013

The day started out sunny and not quite as cool as the previous day.  We are headed to The Club at Treasure Island today and the winds are also down today.  The wind has been pretty strong for the time we have been in Tarpon Springs.

We had a good time in Tarpon Springs and had docktails with the couple on the boat next to us last evening.  The boat is a trawler named Osprey that they bought in Bradenton Florida.  They are within about 80 miles of crossing their wake and completing the Loop.  Patti and Geoff live in Ashland Oregon and are a delightful couple.  We traded good stories about our adventures on the Loop and had a good docktails time.

Osprey pulled out before us but they travel slower than we do so we ended up passing them on the Anclote River on our way to the ICW.  This is a pretty long distance to get from tarpon Springs to the ICW, Probably 4+ miles and a good portion at no wake speed.

The wind that there was out of the Northeast and put up a small chop on the ICW.  The first 15 miles of this section of the ICW is really a large bay with several outer islands that do provide some protection from the Gulf.

Being Saturday there were a lot of boaters on the water and none of them go slow unless they are in a no wake zone and even then it is questionable what constitutes no wake.

the sun was nice and was with us most of the way.  We went thru Dunedin and the Clearwater area.  Plenty of development and high rises in the Clearwater Beach area. As we got further South the ICW narrows down to more of a wide river than the large bay.  All the bridges we passed we were able to go under without having to request an opening.  They were pretty busy today anyway with lots of sailboats and large cruisers around.

We did see the MetLife Blimp today.  It was heading south so I thought maybe it was going to Tampa Bay for a football game tomorrow.  I guess we will need to watch TV tomorrow to find out.

We did see a pirate ship on the ICW.  It was on the south side of Clearwater and some spent a lot of time and effort to make it look like a real pirate ship although I don’t think they painted them, at least not with red trim.

We only needed to travel a little less than 40 miles today so it was an easy day, We are tied up at the Club at Treasure Island at the same dock as last year. We had a nice dinner in the Clubhouse last night and we will be here for another day before heading south.

C Quarters Marina, Carrabelle, FL to Turtle Cove Marina, Tarpon Springs, FL — November 23, 2013

Well I got up early to walk Candy and read the Weather Musings and see if they were still good for the crossing today.  The Weather Musings were still good with the caution to be off the water early because the weather window was closing later today and there were no more weather windows in the foreseeable future, at least thru Thanksgiving.

We cast the lines off at 6:45, almost 1/2 hour before sunrise and started out the harbor from Carrabelle.  The wind was non-existent as you can see in the pictures.  The sunrise was beautiful over the Gulf as we set out east of Dog Island with the Tarpon Springs waypoint some 156 miles southeast.

The water was really nice and flat with no breeze for the first 70 miles and then it was a light breeze just enough to put a ripple on the water.  We did see dolphins about 4 different times but the best ones were the 1st group.  They were in the wake for a couple of minutes and the younger one actually was jumping out of the water.  We were actually to fast for the dolphin pictures we would like. The other groups we spotted off to the side of the boat anywhere from 100′ to 300′ and they never appeared in the wake or did any serious jumping.

We did see a lot of fishing boats scattered about. There were probably at least 2 to 3 dozen boats scattered over our course but once we got to about 40 miles to Tarpon Springs they all were gone. The fishing must be pretty good because the closest land to where they were was 40 to 50 miles to the east. It was Saturday morning so they probably had the day off.

The crab trap markers were fewer this year than last.  We were on essentially the same course as last year when we ran into them about 34 miles out.  This year we did not see the crab trap markers until 21.6 miles out of Tarpons Springs.  And the actual number of markers was less.  Of course we are much more experienced in what to look for and better at dodging them.

We arrived in Tarpon Springs at Turtle Cove Marina just a little under 8 hours from leaving the docks at Carrabelle.  The wind did come up for about the last 20 miles but it was only maybe 8 to 10 mph.  We never saw any waves over 1/2 foot.  What a great ride.

We arrived at Turtle Cove and our slip was between 2 other Loopers that had crossed with the overnight passage last night. We did get invited to a crossing the wake celebration at the Turtle Cove Marina Tiki Hut.  Crossing your wake is completing the Loop. Several of the overnight Loopers that finished the crossing in Clearwater or Dunedin were able to show up for the celebration.

We were able to see Pete and Carolyn from Humbug.  They were on the water for 26 hours yesterday and last night from the time they left Apalachicola to Dunedin.  Their friend Jim that was on board for the crossing was already in Tampa with his daughter and would be flying home to Colorado on Monday. They were tired and not in the mood to stay too long but it was good to see them.

The weather thru Thanksgiving will be very windy with a little rain so we may be here in all likelihood for Thanksgiving Day.

 

Scipio Creek Marina, Apalachacola, FL to C Quarters Marina, Carrabelle, FL — November 22, 2013

Good report today on the weather musings, tomorrow should be a good day for a daylight crossing to Tarpon Springs.  Last year we waited 11 days for a weather window so this will make up for that.  We still need to read the latest musings tomorrow about 6:00 to verify that nothing has changed.  I also looked at NOAA and Windfinder and they appear to confirm the Weather Musings.

We left in a cloudy, dreary morning with some heavy looking clouds.  Once out in Apolachicola Bay things started to brighten up.  There was a lot of VHF radio chatter about crossing the golf today.  Boats needing an overnight crossing window will leave today sometime between 2:00 and 5:00.

the wind was up this morning with whitecaps on the bay so it was blowing at least 15 mph and maybe a little more.  It was nice that we turned into the wind after about 3 miles so there was no more rolling.

Some boats had already left for their crossing and there were reports that the waves were 3′ just south of Dog Island near Carrabelle. I m sure the waves probably were 5′ if you were further south in the Gulf.

We arrived in Carrabelle and needed to wait for some of the departing Loopers so we could get a slip right near the fuel dock.  Probably 5 boats left from C Quarters and there must have been another 4 or so that left from The Moorings Marina up the bay.  I hope they all have a good crossing and things are not too uncomfortable. It was quite a site to see all these boats leaving together going out the river to the Gulf.

We had a nice relaxing afternoon and renewed some of the acquaintances from last year.  The people are just as nice as I remembered and still as friendly.  We walk the 2 1/2 blocks to the IGA to do some re-provisioning. The weather turned out sunny and about mid 70’s.  The wind did die down some so I am hoping the waters on the Gulf are settling down for the boats out there now and for us tomorrow.