Monday, December 26, 2016


      On Saturday morning we are up well before daylight. It is the day the weather is supposed to be good to make the 81nm crossing of the Gulf to the keys. I do my devotions.  I get Barbara up while I read the weather reports to make sure it is safe to head to the keys, Marathon today. I read the NOAA Marine reports for southern Tampa area, west Miami (covers west Everglades shore), and the northern Keys report. The first two are good, seas less than 2', winds 10-15. The keys report shows increasing wind and waves in the late afternoon, with a "Small Craft Advisory", but not a "Warning".  We continue to ready to leave the anchorage. We check behind each other on our preparations. It is not only over 81nm (93 statute miles), but there are no settlements or inhabited areas of the west shore of Florida south of Everglades City. We weigh anchor about 6:50, twenty minutes later than planned. Barbara runs the boat and I run the winch to retrieve the anchor. I use the bucket on a rope to wash the mud off of the anchor as it comes up. It is still dark enough that we turn on the running lights so we can be seen.
It is a good thing, as after we have been gone from the anchorage, and are passing through the opening of Coon Key Pass to the Gulf, we are over run by fisherman headed out to the open water. They are in a hurry, and I am glad the lights are on to help them see us. As we clear the Pass mouth, I increase our speed from about 7.5kt to 10.4kt (about 85% of SummerTime's Perkins rev range). We make good time and are soon across from Everglades City channel entrance. Barbara sends a second text to ou r daughters giving them the lat-lon coordinates for our new position. She earlier texted them to ask them to contact the USCG if they had not heard from us by 6pm. Sort of a float plan to be used if we do not show up on the other end when we should. We are about an hour  into the longest, 36.4nm leg, when the wind has picked up enough to make the ride bumpy. And we are starting to occasionally get spray up on the flybridge. I slow SummerTime to about 9.1kt and the ride gets a little better and a little drier. Another hour, and we have to slow again, this time to 8.1kt as the wind has gotten up more. The water is getting rougher, with the chop consistenly at 2ft heights, with an occasional 3ft tall wave. At 8.1 kt, the GPS has recalculated our arrival time from 3:15 to 4:10. We will still get there before dark, which is key.
       About 2/3 the way down our route, we pass what is named "Little Shark River" on the west side of The Everglades. It would be our anchorage to duck into if we did not think we could make the marina in Marathon before dark. We are less than 3hr away, and our arrival per the GPS is about 4:10 still. We keep slogging on as we have only about 24 miles to go. It is still rough with chop. And there is a change. The area has become infested with the floats of crab or lobster traps. In NW Florida, the traps were all laid out in a line, so they were easy to deal with. You picked a spot and crossed between two, or you ran parallel with the line until you hit a crossing point. That is not possible here. The buoys are in almost no pattern at all. They seem to be in fields, with a line connecting the fields. And the buoys are sometimes closer together than SummerTime is long. Too close together to pass between. The ropes from the pots to the buoys all float, and these ropes sometimes trail out 10 or so feet from the buoy. Cut too close, and you  could have the rope wrapped around your prop shaft. It would not be good to have to stop, and go overboard to clear a prop shaft. So we zig and zag our way all the way to the ICW just north of Marathon. It takes both of us to keep a sharp eye out for these buoys so that we do not get one in our prop. We cross under the East end of the Seven Mile Bridge. We watch a commercial fishing boat pass through and follow him through the same pile opening. Normally the bridges have their channel, or pass through area marked. But not this bridge.
       As we enter the harbor of Boot Key, we start to see marinas. And we see boats anchored just out of the channel. In fact they are anchored in the cut between the Gulf and the Atlantic prior to the harbor entrance. As we get farther into the island harbor, we are greeted by a new site. A very large mooring ball field.
There are 226 moorings per the Guide Book. And they are all taken. On the other side of the entrance channel are boats just anchored, probably 50 of them. We follow the directions we have been given, and just after the mooring field, we see our destination. We are at Sombrero Marina. We are helped into our slip by another boater and a worker for the Marina. It is good today to end the journey we have been on. SummerTime is covered, top to bottom in salt spray. And there are bits of sea grass on the deck that came up in the spray. It is not the highest seas we have navigated, but this was definitely one of the roughest passages. It was a constant assault of chop, a pounding that was unrelenting. After we have the boat all secure, and the power connected and turned on, I get out the hose and rinse SummerTime off. She has done good today getting Barbara and I across Florida Bay. Dennis, who helped us dock, told us of several restaurants near by. We shower off the salt water and head for the Panda House. We have not had Chinese in quite a while. We are not disappointed. We walk by K-Mart on the way back and buy Christmas cards to mail. The first time we have been where we could do this.
      On Sunday we get up and ready ourselves for Church. Barbara fixes breakfast, and I call a cab while she cleans up. We take a cab to the Marathon First Baptist Church. Their voice recording actually gave their hours. Not something all churches give when you call their church number. It is only a 5 minute ride over to the church at max. The cab fare is $5.00, which we have been told is kind of the standard fare in Marathon. They have a fellowship luncheon after the service which we stay for. We walk back to SummerTime. We spend the afternoon addressing Christmas cards and writing notes in them. We also call some relatives on Sunday evening before turning in.
       I go down to the Marina Office to check in as Barbara cleans up after breakfast. I know we want to stay at least a week, and need to stay longer somewhere. I find out there is a smaller slip (they put us in a big, beamy boat slip when we arrived) that is available for a month. I go back and talk to Barbara. We know we need to burn some time up. And we think that it will cost us more to burn that time up if we go east towards Miami. We decide to stay at Sombrero Marina in Marathon for a month. I go back and write a check for a month as there is a discount for paying cash or by check versus credit card. I will miss a bunch of points on the credit card. After I get back, Barbara and I walk to the Post Office and mail our Christmas cards. We go to another small restaurant nearby and eat lunch. Afterwards we stop in some shops and buy some Christmas gifts for others. This marina is turning out to be a good selection as within .6mi walking there are two major grocery stores, the Post Office, a major drug store, and the afore mentioned K-Mart as well as a number of locally owned stores and restaurants. And the church at 1mile away is the farthest place we will need to go. And the bus runs nearby also. We spend the afternoon getting up to date on our bills and other correspondence.
       On Tuesday Barbara spends the day doing laundry. I work on my list of things to do on the boat. And a list of things to buy. I accomplish some of the minor chores so I do not have to put them on the work list.
      Wednesday is a special day, I am a year older, or a day older, depending on how you look at it. Barbara and I walk up to the local sandwich shop and ice cream parlor. The Italian sub is pretty good. But the "Stellar Coffee with fudge" ice cream is great. It is very creamy, and smooth. And a very good coffee flavor. The owner stated when questioned he gets his ice cream from a small ice cream creamery near Palm Beach. It is very smooth. And Island Time makes their own waffle cones which are pretty tasty also. In the afternoon we go back to the First Baptist Church. They are having
a Chili dinner. It is good, and Tina celebrates her birthday the same as me. I joke we are twins.    
   For Thursday, we decide to take the bus to Key West. We walk the half mile to the bus stop, and are only there about ten minutes when the bus arrives. The Key West transit schedule is pretty accurate. It is not a big bus, and stops every few miles, or islands, whichever is first. It takes about 1.5hr to get the 50miles to the heart of Key West, or Duval and Caroline streets. We walk to the harbor end of Duval St. It is definitely a tourist area.  We come back one block, and walk on Front Street to the small boat harbor. We go in some gift shops on the way. We have lunch at "The Conch Republic Restaurant". We eat inside, as it is overcast and windy outside. We might as well be outside, there are pigeons and chickens walking around inside the dining room.
The food is good, the atmosphere "different", and only here could fowl walk around in the dining area. After lunch, we walk to the other end of town to the old Customs House. It is a very unique building architecturally.

It is also the Key West Art and History museum. We buy our tickets and go in. There are exhibits by a local artist, Mario Sanchez. They have a special exhibit of his pencil sketches on the first floor and his wood relief carvings from the sketches scattered throughout the museum. The second floor has important moments in the history of Key West. And there are art areas dedicated to Tennessee Williams and Earnest Hemingway, both who spent a lot of time here. We spend too much time reading the info plaques, and are asked to leave before we get to the third floor. We catch the bus back to Marathon. A couple gets on, that reminds you that you  are on public transportation. He looks left over from the 60s. A flower child with out the perfume aroma. And she looks like a runaway from a family of means. This is the 5 o'clock bus, and there are a number of workers that get on the bus at the various stops and travel out of Key West to the outlying islands. By the time we get to Marathon, the full bus is down to just over an half dozen people. We get off and go to McDonalds for dinner as the bus took 2hr to get back, and it is after 7. We have a 20 minute walk back to SummerTime.
       On Friday, we get up and go about doing chores. Barbara does the white laundry. I tackle the items on the work list I worked on last Tuesday. Some of these are items on the list before we started traveling last August. None are critical, but they are things that will make SummerTime a little more polished for living on full time. I knock off three items on my list. I have to learn to start earlier in the morning. We are walking back with the laundry, and a manatee is under one of the finger piers. It is the best view we have had of one.
He is just hanging around, drinking the water from a leaking hose someone has left laying on a dock. I guess if I had a choice of fresh or salt water, I would go for the fresh water also. Then maybe the water is fluorinated, and he is just trying to take care of his teeth. When you see them up close, they bring new meaning to the word ugly. Their head is kind of square, not much in identifying marks, and the body is somewhere between a walrus and a giant water bound slug. They do move slow though, so the signs to be slow along the waterways to preserve them is justified.
       This has been a good week, where we rested, toured, and did things that we have been putting off. And this marina is very convenient for doing a layover as most any store you need is within walking distance or that $5.00 cab ride.


  1. How do you do your devotions - readings from the Bible, talks with the Lord, prayers>

    1. Those manatees sure ARE ugly...kind of scary, too - and amazing teeth; good for a toothpaste advertisement.

      Are the manatees as docile as I've heard they are?

  2. So let me see if I have this right...1) Summertime is located at Point 67, Sombrero Marina, Florida, in the Keys. 2) Rodney and Barb are traveling by car and are now (as of 1/7/17) in the Carolinas? Did I get that right?

    Cold here in Las Vegas. Must be colder in the frigid East Coast of the USA. OK, Gotta go for now.