Saturday, March 27, 2010

Cape Coral, Cayo Costa, Cabbage Key and more...

Where to start? Cape Coral Yacht Basin is a beautiful little marina run by the city that contains within its borders a sort of half-size olympic pool with a diving section, a small but pretty beach, a food stand near the beach with awesome hamburgers and not bad fish & chips. There is a conference center and tennis courts. They have a little gazebo inside the marina where the boaters have a Friday cocktail hour. There are also handball/racquetball courts. As facilities go, it's top notch. Staying there gets you free access to all of it.

True, it's up the Caloosahatchee River about five miles, but by the same token it's really well protected.

Cape Coral, like all post war communities in South Florida, is spread out with much of it on man-made canals. On the other hand, it's really flat and a perfect place to use my Xootr kick scooter to get around.

There is not much to see here or do, for that matter, other than swim or walk or kayak about. But just a little over an hour away by boat is the Gulf of Mexico with ports of call all over - the south you know because I've mentioned them. To the north is Venice, St. Pete's, Tampa and more. In between are a bunch of islands that are accessible only by boat or ferry. The two big exceptions are Pine Island, that is a real taste of old Florida and Sanibel Island that is expensive and apparently not that friendly, or at least the National Wildlife Refuge isn't.

But I'm getting ahead of myself as usual.

I arrived here on March 14th because my friend, Brooke from Noank, CT, told me she had a friend at this marina, AJ, who had said it was inexpensive and quite nice. On both counts, AJ was correct. I'm at the 'T' end of the middle dock which is an easy in - easy out slip. Given Pelican's lack of low speed maneuverability, it's the best slip in the house!

Since it was a week until Teri arrived I had lots of time to do some of the deferred maintenance - which is what cruising is all about anyway (fixing boats in exotic locations).

Every Friday evening the boat owners get together at the gazebo and bring some food and whatever they're drinking and have a little soire that ends fairly early in the evening. It's very pleasant and it allows everyone to catch up. Enjoyable!

If you're in Cape Coral for any length of time and need a place to eat, there are two very good ones - the first, Maria's on 46th Lane near Del Prado, has been in business for a long time (since 1991 under the same owner). It's an Italian restaurant with some absolutely fantastic dishes and excellent pizza. At lunchtime, they have personal pizzas for $5.99 with three toppings included! Can you beat that? I think not.

For breakfast and Cuban fare (real Cubans run the place and eat there), Mambos Cuban-American Bakery, Deli and Restaurant on Del Prado has a terrific breakfast special - three eggs, bacon, and toast for $2.99. Coffee is extra, but three people can eat there for breakfast for like $11.00 before tip. They have $.60 bakery items that are delish! Highly recommended!

The weekend before Teri arrived, my friend, Tony, and his girlfriend, Joy, came down to see me from Tampa. We ate dinner at Maria's and breakfast at Mambos. They are a long walk from the marina (a couple of miles or so), but an easy scooter and easier bike ride. Remember, Cape Coral is really flat. However, Tony drove this time.

I picked up Teri at Tampa International Airport on the evening of March 23rd. She wanted to see a beach, maybe collect some shells and shark's teeth. So we went to Sharky's in Venice, FL for a bit of wandering and some food.

Sharky's is a tourist trap - the food is pretty good, the service is pretty good, and it's crowded! There's a long fishing pier into the Gulf of Mexico and it's surrounded on both sides with a really beautiful beach. Apparently it's the shark's teeth capital of the world! Not just live sharks, but fossilized teeth as well (white vs. black).

The trick, though, is that you need to sieve the gravel and shells right at the water's edge. It is extremely unlikely to find one just laying there. More on that later, though.

It was windy and cold, so we didn't spend too much time wandering about the beaches. Besides our table got ready and so we returned to Sharky's. It would have been nice to eat outside except for the cold and the wind.

As mentioned, the food was pretty good. They have some really innovative ways of making their fish and the portions are good sized. I suggest, if you're in the area, and it's not Spring Break, you go there and relax a bit. They also have live music every night, I think, on the deck. As tourist traps go, it's worth the visit.

The plan had been to sail up to Tampa to pick up Teri, but that's three days up and three days back almost all motoring because the wind's mostly out of the north. So it was really less expensive to rent a car and drive it. Teri was only going to be here for a week so to waste three days just getting back to the area wouldn't have been great.

We got back to Pelican exhausted - and way too full from Sharky's.

The next morning, Wednesday, walking the dock, we met Chuck and Shannon who indicated they were taking "Packet Up" a 37 foot Island Packet to Cayo Costa for the weekend - they were going to anchor in a little hurricane hole and enjoy the solitariness.

We decided to go to Cayo Costa as well for the weekend, but figured they'd be way ahead of us and not really interested in company. But as luck would have it, we caught up to them right at the outside of their anchorage - following them in they ran aground (soft) and shortly after I touched. I decided that discretion was the better part of valor and we headed around to Pelican Bay (how could I not) to anchor - in reality, less than half a mile from where Chuck and Shannon were going to anchor.

Well, after running aground twice and getting stuck because it must have been mud I decided once again for discretion and anchored in seven feet just out of Pelican Bay. That said, of course, I have to give a shout out to an unknown Samaritan who towed me off the mud twice. All with extremely good humor. I wish I remembered his boat name. Sadly, I don't.

Anyway, we had a lovely dinner and watched sunset with cocktails and that was that - you don't really need to know that there was no sailing being done that day - wind on the nose the whole way.

Thursday morning I put the dinghy together and we went to Cayo Costa State Park where the rangers were friendly, helpful, and wonderfully kind. The beach on the Gulf side was beautiful and long and not terribly crowded. Teri walked with me a bit, sunned herself, and swam a bit. I walked the nature trails (because I can't stand sitting on a beach). Chuck and Shannon were there as well.

At the park, we all decided to have dinner together on Pelican, and so Teri put together a lovely dinner with my grilling some chicken breasts. Shannon made a salad. It was delicious, especially after a day of doing nothing at the beach.

They had to go back to walk their dog so the evening was early. Once again, we collapsed exhausted...

Dinghying to Cabbage KeyA view of Useppa Island from Cabbage KeyLittle known fact - Cabbage Key is where "Cheeseburger in Paradise" by Jimmy Buffet comes from - Key West tries to take credit but can't. Search the web for it. You'll see. Friday the weather was iffy - but not raining and not too cold so we all dinghied over to the restaurant for a cheeseburger. No problem landing, got great service, not crowded at all. Our waitress told us that usually there's an hour wait to just get to the dock, and the same for the restaurant! The iffy weather made the trip really pleasant! Lucky us! Food was good, price ok, drinks small. If you're there, drink beer. Fancy drinks are pricey. But to touch a little Paradise...

We had planned to go back to the marina on Saturday, a day before Chuck and Shannon, and so got ourselves together to go - Sunny, hot, and no wind. Naturally. Tried to sail. No go. Got back to the marina early afternoon and went swimming at the beach. Ok, walking in the water to cool off. It's not more than about knee deep well out. But it was refreshing. Dinner was a cheeseburger (again) at the place on the beach. For a burger stand, their food is really decent. And not too expensive. And the atmosphere is quite nice with the beach and the waterway right there.

Sunday we met up with Teri's friend, Chris, from her high school days and his girlfriend, Vickie. Chris picked us up at the marina around lunch time and took us to their home for some hors d'oeuvres and a couple of drinks - then loaded up their kayaks and drove a block to the park's launch ramp.

In a couple of minutes we had kayaked into a mangrove swamp that seemed so remote as to be nowhere near civilization. It was spectacular and we got to go through tunnels of mangroves and see egrets and ibis and osprey and mullets jumping along the shore as if for the fun of it. It was a lovely few hours seeing the kayak trail and just catching up. Of course, I forgot the camera so there's no pictures...

When we got back it was dinner time and Chris suggested a small restaurant/bar in Matlacha (pronounced 'Mat-le-shay') near Pine Island called Bert's Bar & Grill. The food's good, the service good, the price good, and it's definitely worth the visit - but get the handmade potato chips. Very, very good!

After that, Chris brought us back to the boat.

Monday Chris took us to Ft. Myers to look around. The center of the city has been renewed but it only covers a few square blocks, but it's really pretty - very artsy. Teri enjoyed looking about, especially at the beading shop.

Then we were off to the ice cream palace, and finally back to Pelican.

We had planned to go to St. John's City on Tuesday and staying overnight before heading up to Tampa, visiting J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge and anchoring out for the evening. We had heard that the refuge was a destination we could dinghy to so we decided to tootle on over to St. James City and anchor, head over to the refuge and tour it, see the beaches on Sanibel Island, and generally spend the day wandering. We had planned to rent bicycles from the park and really see what we could see.

Getting anchored - check. Getting our little lunch/snack cooler together - check. Getting into Tarpon Bay to the park - check. Being allowed on shore to see the park - What? We can't land?

No, apparently not. There's no place to put the dinghy. Lie. There is plenty of space to put a dinghy. So called the park's main office. Lovely woman asked me to hold on - after a while she came back and said that we could go ashore, someone would help us take the dinghy up the ramp and we could tour the park. Lots of 'thank-yous'. Whoopee! We're going exploring!

Back to the ramp. A woman comes down clearly annoyed. Net result - we can come in if we promise to carry the dinghy 40 yards to the parking lot, and no, no one will help and it's a $15.00 launch fee - just so you know, the dinghy and motor weigh approximately 140 lbs. I can't carry it alone and I'm sure Teri can't carry half of it.

Why can't we put it on the side of the ramp in the grass where there's nothing? Nope, no can do. How about the dock space right here or over there? No. Not allowed.

Well, we weren't about to do that so we left. I wrote to the director of the refuge. No answer. Here's the thing: the state park rangers were spectacular. The national park system is run by concessionaires. Do you think they give a hoot? Seems not. Apparently the director isn't interested in responding either.

If you have any inclination to write to the director expressing your outrage (politely, of course), here's his information directly from the site:

Paul Tritaik, Refuge Manager
1 Wildlife Drive
Sanibel, FL 33957
Phone: (239) 472-1100
Fax: (239) 472-4061

Normally I don't promote political action but in this case my reasoning is that it's a national park, we all pay taxes to support it, and the park should try to accommodate all of our citizens regardless of their mode of transport.

Ok, that's the end of that rant.

Well, back to Pelican. Teri went for a swim while I got Pelican ready to get underway and eventually we went off for a sail into the Gulf of Mexico. It was a terrific sail! We got back to the marina late-ish. Time enough for a cocktail and a bit of dinner. We watched a movie and collapsed again. Play, apparently, is just as hard as work.

Sadly, Teri's time was coming to an end in Cape Coral but there was one more adventure - I have friends in Tampa I haven't seen in some time (longer than I even remember). So we headed up there Wednesday and stopped at the beach near Sharky's to look for sharks teeth and to let Teri get a few more hours in the sun and water (which she dearly loves).

As usual, I walked the beach and found out how to find the teeth. When I got back to Teri, I borrowed a colander from a family sitting on the beach and Teri and I filled, rinsed, and examined the results from the stirred up beach just where the waves stop. After about 15 minutes of that we found two tiny new sharks teeth (white) and one fossilized one, also tiny.

Some families had a regular industrial site going with two people hauling the stuff from the water with tools specially built for this - a screen box at the end of a stick and several sorting sieves. I don't know how many teeth they got, but they were certainly industrious!

After a while, we had to make our way to Tampa to check in and get cleaned up for dinner at Yara and Al's home. Although we ended up getting there a bit late, they were still happy to see us. I used to work with Yara in New York and hadn't seen her since she moved to Florida, got married and had a baby! The meal was excellent and so was the company. It was very nice to reconnect again with them.

Since I hadn't brought Pelican to Tampa, I promised them a day out when they come up to visit friends in Connecticut!

By the time we got back to the hotel, it had once again been a long day - and we had to get up at 4:30 to get Teri to the airport at 5:00am. That was pretty hard - the getting up bit, I mean.

After driving around the airport a couple of times to find the terminal, I dropped Teri off and we said our good-byes. I was sad to see her go!

I drove back to Cape Coral, went to the grocery store to stock up, returned the car and went back to Pelican for a nap or whatever. The next day I took the dinghy out of the water, cleaned and folded it and stowed it for the trip north. Very sad. Also, twisted my back. Feh. I ended up staying until April 6th when I headed off to Moore Haven on my way to Indiantown for a short haul! The possibility exists of seeing Lee and Karen again as well as Jack and Paula!

More on that next time - the Okeechobee Waterway is long, often dull, but a real kick to travel. It's Old Florida.

See you on the water!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Key West to Cape Coral, FL

Closeup of mangrove swampWhen you think of mangrove swamps you're probably picturing a place that could very well be in the Everglades National Park. Most of the southern tip of Florida is part of it and it ends around Everglades City. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

A few days after Teri left for New York I got a final load of laundry done, picked up a few things, made a tour of Key West to get the 'tourista' pictures necessary to prove I was actually there.

I also decided to fill my water tanks and take on some gas for the outboard and generator so asked my friends Jack and Billie to come with me to get them. Well, the Sunset Marina, while very nice has a very narrow fairway and I managed to get crosswise in it with the wind blowing me into the mangroves. Nice. I really impressed my guests with my piloting skills...

So I hopped into the dinghy, took a line from the bow and proceeded to tow Pelican to the gas dock impressing the guys standing there. What impressed them is that I could do it with the dinghy and backwards at that. Here's a tip - if you need to tow with an inflatable dinghy, especially if it's a heavy tow, do it with a harness on the transom and tow backwards. Otherwise, the load will cause the stern to sink and the bow will blow around uncontrollably. Just apply power slowly and gently.

Well, after that little faux pas, I was ready to go. The weather report for the next few days were supposed to be good so I had the brilliant idea of heading out to the jetty at the end of the Northwest Channel from Key West. Unfortunately, it was just too rough to do that. So I went back almost to Wisteria Island and anchored for the evening.

Leaving Key West's Northwest ChannelThe next morning I was on my way at 6:30 and out of the channel at 7:30. The wind was too close to sail alone so I motor-sailed to the Little Shark River. The Little Shark River, just south of Little Shark Island, has a well marked entrance - it's a straight shot from the end of the Northwest Channel.

I arrived there around three pm and anchored about a mile up the river in a very protected stretch. I figured I'd be more or less alone but by five there were an additional four or five boats spread around. Believe me, there's more than enough room. I don't want to say for how many, but enough.

Coming into Little Shark RiverMercifully, it's still winter here because Little Shark River Mangroves with rainbowthe mosquitoes in the Everglades are heavily armored - they are hard to kill, not like those wussy northern mosquitoes. I mean, a heavy smack only makes them a little woozy. You really have to put some effort into it. And they sound like small bombers flying around. But there aren't many just now. Apparently, going into the Everglades in the summer is virtually the same as blood self- sacrifice.

The evening was lovely, to be sure, and the next day I decided to go to Everglades City because, well, because it's there. And I had to have some alligator. Mmmm. Tastes like lemon chicken.

Anyway, of course the wind was on the nose, but not too strong until I turned into the Indian Key Pass. The wind picked up and became all too good for sailing. Just not for sailing through the Everglades - the channel going up to Everglades City is narrow but more than deep enough even at the edges.

I arrived at the Everglades City Rod and Gun Club around 4ish - it is 5 miles inland from the Gulf of Mexico. What a place! It's so totally a "man's" club - now it's just a restaurant and inn with bungalows, but when it was actually a rod and gun club it was quite a place. There are stuffed animal heads on the wall, a stuffed alligator, little stuffed animals like otters and wildcats and so forth scattered about. It's darkish varnished paneled walls have pictures of hunts, various guns and rifles, and other hunting paraphernalia hanging.

The food is average and a little pricey. But the atmosphere is all male. It's cool and deserves a visit for that reason alone.

Just up the street a few blocks is the Outback Cafe (breakfast, lunch and dinner) which is more my speed. Good food, fast, and a clean and pleasant setting. Inexpensive, too. Definitely a place to eat.

Also, there's a seafood place that advertises and 'all you can eat buffet $7.95' which is a bit of a come-on. It's for the salad bar and all the peel-and-eat shrimp you can do. The real seafood buffet is still reasonable at $34, but has rock crab, crab legs, clams, mussels, caviar, fried shrimp, scallops and includes the salad bar as well. It's pretty good and they keep the food fresh. It's part of the Captain's Table hotel. If you feel gluttonous, by all means, go there.

I met Mark the next morning while wandering around the property - we hit it off and since he had to go to Naples, he invited me along for the ride and to spend some time wandering around while he took care of business.

Naples, FL 5th Ave looking northNaples FL, 5th Ave looking southNaples has basically two streets to visit - 5th Avenue which is like a mini version of New York's 5th Avenue with some pricey stores and restaurants and State Route 41 which goes past the stores and services you'd expect in a regular town like diners, repair centers, and finally a big mall with Macy's and Sears and so forth.

A touristy place in Naples is Tin City with a bunch of small shops and restaurants. It's nice to wander around and if you're looking for souvenirs of Naples, it's the place to go, unless, of course, you want to bring back a multi-thousand dollar piece of local artwork.

After two days, you've pretty much seen all there is to see in Everglades City - had I stayed longer I might have done an airboat ride. But I didn't.

Mark and I left late in the day to anchor in Russell Bay Pass, just a little way into Indian Key Pass. He rafted with me and we had a great old time - he plays guitar really well and better yet, remembers the words to songs. So he played, I cooked and listened. A wonderful evening was had by all. All two of us.

I had to start making my way north to meet Teri so the next day early we got underway - me for Marco Island, Mark, I think, for Little Shark River. It was a bit rough out, so he may have gone back to Russell Bay Pass. I hope to meet up with him again.

Abbotsford II in Little Shark RiverAnyway, on the way to Marco Island I heard from Abbotsford II, a boat I met in Little Shark River - We've shared pictures over email but never actually met.

Anyway, I got to Marco Island first. The ride into the channel entrance was pretty wild! The wind and current conspired to form 6-7 foot waves rushing into the harbor. It was definitely exciting!
I noodled my way into Smokehouse Bay and let Abbotsford II know it was ok- the channel has been dredged recently and has enough water to get into the bay without difficulty for boats with up to a six foot draft. The bay itself has up to 19 feet depth for anchoring although it shallows in the middle to four feet or so. It averages around 12 feet.

It's well protected, surrounded by large homes and multi-storey buildings. It was blowing around 20-25 outside but almost calm in Smokehouse Bay. There's access to Marco Island at a small marina in there, but since I was only going to be there one night, I didn't bother putting it together. It's a great anchorage if you don't want to go to Factory Bay.

I got underway early (for me) Sunday morning - it was the first day of Daylight Savings time (and I seriously hate Daylight Savings Time - there really is no purpose for it, but Congress, with not being able to do anything useful seems to believe that moving it was such a good idea and easy to pass that they might as well do it and then be so proud of themselves. But I digress).

I'd forgotten I'd be getting up in pitch darkness. So when the sky started to lighten I got underway for Cape Coral, just across the Caloosahatchee River from Ft. Myers, Fl.

The winds were lighter but still too close to sail in so it was an easy motoring to Cape Coral Yacht Basin - a lovely little marina well protected in one of the canals. It's just inside the cape and is run by the city. My friend, Brooke, from Noank, CT had mentioned her friend, AJ was here and would be happy to meet a fellow cruiser, and so she is!

I've got time to do a lot of deferred maintenance in a very pleasant environment - all the people I've met on the docks are quite friendly and have offered transport to West Marine and other stores. But I've got my scooter and it's been a blast scooting about!

After Teri leaves on March 30, I'll be heading across the Okeechobee Waterway, via the Caloosahatchee River. I may be meeting Jack and Billie and Lee and Karen on the other side near Stuart! Next after that is Green Cove Springs for a short haul and then the long trek home to Connecticut.

See you on the water!

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Fun in Key West, Florida

Kermit's Key West LimeThe thing you really need to know about key lime pie is that it is yellow and that when wrapped in dark chocolate and frozen becomes a treat that is beyond compare. There are many places to get key lime pie in Key West, but my favorite pointed out by Jack and Billie from Billie Dancer is on the corner of Elizabeth and Green streets named Kermit's Key (West) Lime Pie.

Key West, the southernmost part of the continental United States, is literally and figuratively the end of the line. Sure, you could journey out to the Dry Tortugas and the Marquesas, but you can't stay there. The contrast between the huge cruise ships along the sea wall at Key West Bight and the twenty foot live aboard boats anchored in or near mangroves is blinding, yet somehow they're all a part of the whole scene.

Duval Street, Key WestBy day, Key West is the prototypical tourist town with all the cruise ship people wandering around at extreme low speed and purchasing chotskies for all their friends at home. When night falls, however, it's a whole different scene - all the bars on Duval Street have their doors open and are packed with people listening to loud music and drinking like there's no tomorrow. It's Party Central and I've been told it lasts until near dawn.

So Key West is a town of contrasts.

Friday February 19th a new friend, Teri, arrived to spend the week with me. The theory was we'd go sailing, snorkeling, see the town, swim and kayak, and generally mess about. Of course, the weather didn't cooperate very well. This February has been, on average, 15 degrees colder than normal and has had near record setting lows. Worse, the series of lows continued to march across the Gulf of Mexico resulting in some frighteningly windy days that managed to kick up some fair seas even in the mooring field outside Garrison Bight.

So we explored town a lot, ate (a lot), spent one day sailing to Sand Key and back, and one day on the beach. Fortunately, we've met some very special people here (the aforementioned Billie and Jack), Dan and Susan from Gypsy who are waiting for a weather window to head towards the Yucatan.

Almost every night we've had a cocktail hour that was so well provisioned that dinner never got made or eaten. Lunch when in town has been almost universally good - Jack and Billie have eaten in a lot of places and know where to go for the best stuffed shrimp or good Mexican food. While in town my first day I found DJ's Clam Shack on Duval where they had fried Ipswich clams. I couldn't resist. They definitely hit my clam buttons!

Old Town Mexican CafeAlso, Teri and I had lunch at a small Mexican restaurant, Old Town Mexican Cafe, on Duval where the quesadillas are excellent and they make a black been chimichanga that is superb. I may have to have another before I leave!

Mile Marker 0 and A&B Lobster HouseWe've also eaten at the ground floor restaurant at A&B Marina (under the A&B Lobster House) called Alonzo's on Front Street or near by it. Conch Republic next door has amazing stuffed shrimp, but the drinks are outrageously expensive. Drink iced tea.

We've come to the conclusion that no matter where you eat in the main part of town you'll get a good meal - the competition is too great for a crappy restaurant to remain. Well, maybe the Hard Rock Cafe, Sloppy Joes, and Hogsbreath Saloon could get away with it (I don't know because we didn't go there) because they're tourist icons. I can't say. But any of the other restaurants and all we went to were good, if some more expensive than they need to be.

Once out of town, say east of Garrison Bight, Key West becomes much more Florida like with malls and hotels and so forth. Unless you want to provision there isn't really a reason to see that part. If you're staying in the Garrison Bight City Marina or on one of their moorings you'll be able to walk to Winn Dixie and a large liquor store.

Everywhere you can rent bicycles, scooters, or electric cars. They can be very reasonable, sometimes as low as $25/day for a scooter. When you rent them, you're not allowed off Key West. However, even without those means of transport, it's easy to get around just by walking.

Stock Island, just to the east, has a really good restaurant, Hurricane Joe's in the Hurricane Hole Marina. Teri and I went there the day she arrived, as traveling with American Airlines where they sent her baggage to Bermuda, required good food and strong drink.

Apparently, American has decided that for your $20 for a checked bag it should get more miles than you do. American has shown such extraordinary incompetence that I, personally, will not fly them unless there's no other choice. Teri told me the flight had snacks - $3.50 for a bag of potato chips (you know the ones that are $.50 everywhere else?) But I digress. Also, I prepare you for another American Airlines story towards the end of this.

Anyway, we had the two specials and both were great. It was a bit too chilly to eat outside.

Jack, Billie, Teri, and I had decided to go to the No Name Pub on Big Pine Key, but U.S. 1 was backed up with no movement just past Boca Chica. So we turned around and went to the Hogfish Bar and Grill on Stock Island for the Hogfish Sandwich. It was excellent! The day was warm and comfortable and the company great!

Billie Dancer under sailThe next day was warm with east winds so nothing would do but Billie Dancer and we went sailing to Sand Key with the idea that we'd pick up a mooring and snorkel. NOAA promised warm breezes and sunny weather and a perfect day on the water. We had planned to go to Boca Grande to anchor for the evening in the little channel/anchorage there.

Pelican under full sailAfter sailing off the mooring, we headed up around Fleming Key for a southerly course to Sand Key. Going past the historic seaport of Key West turned into a photo op for both boats. We got loads of pictures under sail. Very nice.

Sand Key LightSo, we got to Sand Key (see picture of light) and the weather turned nasty - cloudy, colder, with wind increasing and the beach at Sand Key totally under water so we decided to go back to the moorings. It turned out to be a very prudent decision as unforecast thunderstorms passed by. So much for NOAA.

I include this little video for your viewing satisfaction...

That evening we had cocktail hour aboard Billie Dancer and generally had a great time.

As I mentioned before, cocktail hour almost every evening was quite entertaining. Billie and Jack taught us a card game called 'Shithead' which is great fun. We've spent several evenings playing it. With wine, it gets even better.

One day we all went to the beach at Fort Zachary Taylor. Billie, Me, Teri, Billie and Jack at Ft. Zachary Taylor BeachJack, and Teri rode bicycles and I took my scooter (kick type, a Xootr - which I highly recommend. On flat terrain like sidewalks and streets it's an amazing way to get around and almost always garners smiles from other adults. Not so much in Key West because strange is expected. But I digress.)

The beach is sort of rough coral - there's sand for laying about but you need foot protection to go in the water. The beach is the last piece of land on Key West. You go south from there and you're in Cuba 90 miles later. Go southwest and you're in the Yucatan 300 or so miles later. Go west and you hit the Dry Tortugas, and after that you're headed for the Texas/Mexico border.

Teri and Bob at the southernmost point, Key West, FLAs Teri's time here grew shorter we decided to take a nice day and tour Key West to get some prototypical tourist pictures. Also, to eat something somewhere that we hadn't eaten yet. I mean, there's just so many places to eat! We ended up at Alonzo's again because of the mojitos and then did our picture thing - mostly to get the monument at the end of Whitehead, the southernmost point on the continental United States.

Susan, Dan, Teri, Billie and Jack at dinnerOne evening the whole group of us (Billie Dancer, Gypsy, and Pelican) went to dinner in town and then to the Red Barn Theater to see a one woman show, "Shirley Valentine" performed by Joan O'Dowd as Shirley. It was amazing (I think anyone who can memorize 90 minutes of monologue is astounding. I think anyone who can remember two minutes incredible, though, so for me the bar is set really low. But I digress again.) The theater is small but comfortable and I highly recommend a trip there if you're here in Key West for any length of time.

Sadly, Teri's time here came to an end. Fortunately American Airlines couldn't get themselves together to get an airplane here on the day they were supposed to (Sunday) and didn't fly out on Monday at all, so Teri got to stay here for an extra day. Woohoo! But even then, she had to go home so we bid farewell on Tuesday morning and that was that. She'll be rejoining me in Tampa later this month.

The weather has turned colder but will start warming up Sunday. I plan to leave for Little Shark River on Monday morning. I may anchor out overnight near the East Jetty on the Northwest Channel out of Key West so that I have a bright and early start Tuesday morning. The winds are supposed to be out of the east then southeast making the trip a close to beam reach with relatively little fetch. I'm excited about taking a couple of days anchored in Little Shark River in the Everglades...

So that's about that. Key West is a great place to visit and it can be a great place to live, too, if you anchor somewhere. Real estate is out of this world expensive and food tends to be a little more expensive than the mainland.

See you on the water!