After replacing the partially varnished steps and entry door, we had a lovely travel day from Marathon to Key Largo with only about 5 knots of wind when we pulled out of Marlin Bay Yacht Club. The water was beautiful shades of blue and we saw 6.5 to 12’ depth of water enroute. We anchored off the Marriott just past the Marvin D. Adams Waterway which led into John Pennekamp State Park (right).
We finally connected with friends Bob and Dee Shelton who wintered in Islamorada and who were going to drive down to see us in Marathon. They agreed to drive up to Key Largo instead and take us to dinner. We dinghied to the dinghy dock at the Marriott, and then we drove back down to Islamorada to Chef Michael’s, a restaurant which cooked Bob’s fish (snapper and trout) to order, differently for each of us. After wonderful hot rolls, salads, and conch fritters, Tom had his snapper with crab and scallops, Paula with crab, mushrooms, capers, and key lime sauce, Bob – blackened, and Dee – nut-encrusted. They all looked and tasted superb. And every vegetable – mixed sweet/white/purple roasted potatoes, asparagus and carrots with maple syrup, coconut-infused rice – was outstanding. Then Bob made us eat dessert – chocolate 3-layer cake for Tom, and most-delicious Key lime pie for the rest. Have we made you hungry yet? It was one of the best meals we had in the Keys (and they were all above average)! After that, we got all the left-overs for another night too! Thank you so much, Bob and Dee!
We left Life’s Lift (the dinghy) in the water tied to Life’s TraVails after dinghying back in the dark. (It made for a noisy overnight bumping against us as we slept.)
In the morning, we dinghied into John Pennekamp Coral Reef SP through Marvin D. Adams Waterway, a short man-made cut lined with houses and boats (left). Our plan was to snorkel in the park and pick up a package we had directed there when we planned to stay at John Pennekamp Marina (but canceled due to the long delay in Marathon for wind). The marina did not have our package but after numerous calls, we discovered it was to be delivered later in the day. We checked out the beach and decided snorkeling didn’t look so great there. Paula thought Christ of the Abyss was in John Pennekamp, but we found out it was adjacent to the park on the reef about 5 miles out. There were snorkel trips to the reef for $30, but visibility was only 20 feet (ok…but we’ve seen much better) and we decided not to go.
In the marina though, we saw something we had never seen before. It had a starfish-like shape but could be better described as looking like a slice of cauliflower. We found out it was a Cassiopeia jellyfish. They move rarely, almost being more plant-like than animal-like and turn upside down with its tentacles up in the water to photosynthesize the symbiotic algae living in its tissues.
So, back to the boat for lunch while we waited. The bay was quite busy with jet skiers as well as snorkel and fishing boats going past, but it was relaxing. Tom returned to the marina and came back with our package. We decided to make a few miles even though it was already mid-afternoon, so we moved 10 miles and had a great night’s sleep on anchor with our side and entry doors and aft portholes open with a nice cool breeze flowing through.
Departing the next morning was exciting. Even before the anchor was out of the water, we had a maternity pod (moms and babies) of 15-20 dolphins escorting us out of the anchorage! There was one very small baby. Enroute, we secured a marina reservation at Miami because high winds were in the forecast again. Southern Florida has very high marina rates, but we found Pelican Harbor Marina, one of 6 marinas operated by Miami-Dade County, which was much cheaper. Definitely no-frills (especially after having just left Marlin Bay Yacht Club) but we were very thankful when, while there, winds gusted to 30 knots overnight.
Biscayne Bay, just south of Miami (right), was beautiful with its clear blue water. Whitecaps made it a bit hard to get around on the boat, but it was really not uncomfortable; the wind was probably a bit more than 20 knots as we crossed the bay. Another large pod of 10 or more dolphins swam with us as we left Biscayne.
Enter the land of bridges – the southeast coast ICW (Intracoastal Waterway, if you’re just starting to read our blog). With an air draft (height) of 20’ at our minimum (by lowering antennas), there were bridges that had to be opened for us to pass through. Some were opened on request, but others had set times, like on the hour and half-hour. Fortunately, we only had to wait 15 minutes for one bridge to open.
Unfortunately, the finger docks at the marina were very short and we could not get a port tie (left side) to be able to get LC (Life’s Cycle, aka “Elsie”), our scooter, off. We would be dependent on public transportation and our own two feet.
Thursday’s thunderstorms were as forecast. There were alternately 6 isolated rainstorms, each followed by sunny skies. Overnight, the wind was 22 knots gusting to 30 and the temperatures cooled down to 62°. We used it as a workday – laundry and sightseeing planning for Paula and Canyon Ministries necessities for Tom. And we visited the Pelican Rescue Station in the marina where injured pelicans were brought back to health and re-released, if possible.
Early Friday morning brought the last of the rain and we were able to get out mid-morning to see some of Miami, Miami Beach, and South Beach (SoBe). Both had some free transportation (Metromover in Miami and South Beach trolley in SoBe), which minimized our need for taxis or buses. We did the Waterfront Walking Tour in downtown Miami and the Art Deco self-guided tour in SoBe. The Art Deco architecture (pictured below) was very interesting and unique. We walked a total of 3.1 miles and felt we got a small taste of the Miami area. The wind lightened to only 17 gusts 26 and was forecast to continue decreasing, so it finally looked good for a departure the next day.We pulled out of the marina with only about 8 knots of wind in the morning at 7:40 AM and back onto the ICW. As we moved north through North Miami, Aventura, Hallandale Beach, Dania Beach and into Ft Lauderdale only 20 miles away, we passed multi-million houses, many with boats in front. Fortunately, we only had to wait for 1 bridge opening and pulled into the Hall of Fame Marina, located at the International Swimming Hall of Fame by 10:45. We got passes to go to the pool complex and got to swim in their 50-meter pool. Off to the side was their 25-yard pool and another deep diving pool with a 40-meter dive platform. We found out the complex was closing 2 days later for a major renovation and would not be reopened until Oct 2020. Our timing was perfect and Paula really got a kick out of being able to swim there. Afterward, we toured the International Swimming Hall of Fame, with many exhibits and photographs. There was one of Johnny Weissmuller (Olympic Gold medalist who played Tarzan) and Donna de Varona (Olympic Gold medalist), who both attended the opening of the complex and, of course, a whole exhibit just on the first 7-time Olympic gold medalist, Mark Spitz.
Ft. Lauderdale Beach, packed with family and college students on spring break, was only a block away, so we enjoyed walking there. Though the sand was nice, the view was detracted by all the grass washed up by the wind.
Our main reason for stopping in Ft. Lauderdale was to get to see our friend, Ginger Martin, who lived in Pompano Beach. We met Ginger 6 years ago when she came on a Canyon Ministries river trip and have been friends ever since. She is an amazing lady, president of the largest independent bank in Pompano Beach, and a mountain climber through whom the love of Christ shines and we are privileged to call her “friend.” (For inspiration, listen to her TED talk.)
Ginger came and picked us up to go to her church, Christian Life Center, which we had enjoyed once before with her. We got to know her good friend, Jill Colon, over a wonderful lunch at Jet Café at Ft. Lauderdale Executive Airport (an airport Paula had flown into once before). Then Ginger did for us what every boater needs most – an offer to help us re-provision at Costco and Publix – before returning us to the boat. We sure wish Ginger lived closer to us, but we look forward to her joining us a few days later in the Loop. To the right are Jill and Ginger, excited at successfully loading our Life’s TraVails website onto their phones.
We left Hall of Fame just before the sun broke the horizon and made our way to North Palm Beach where DeFever Cruisers Chief Pilot Hank Haeseker had offered us a dock in front of his house. What a blessing. Hank was another past DeFever owner with whom Tom had worked on the update of the DeFever forum but we hadn’t met in person. Not only did he give us his dock overnight (and what a beautiful neighborhood right off the ICW) but he treated us to a most delicious seafood dinner at Juno Beach Fish House.We really enjoyed getting to know Hank. He was such a wealth of knowledge, loves traveling (55,000 miles on his boat, Last Laugh, before selling it – pictured left), and we swapped lots of “boat & fish stories.” His house was gorgeous. Hank, an engineer, designed it with great attention to symmetry and details. Paula loved everything about it and told him she wanted to buy it when he decided to move.
In the morning, before departure, we learned one other big thing from Hank. We had tied alongside his dock to the pilings, and there were 2 other pilings to the other side of the boat. The way he used to depart the dock with his (bigger) 52’ DeFever was, with a bumper, to pivot on the front piling while steering the front of the boat toward the dock and reversing the other prop to move the stern away from the dock. Then we could stern out into the clearance between the outside pilings. We had never used this type of move before. Our handrail was only about 1” from hitting (our handrails are a tad wider than the toerail on which we were pivoting), but because of the extra space the bumper provided, it worked perfectly. We were so glad to have another technique in our arsenal. Thanks, Hank!
The water cleared again to a beautiful blue-green and the 47-mile motor to Ft. Fierce was lovely. The homes we passed kept us saying, “Oh, my” time after time. Some of them are below, but they can only be appreciated by clicking on each one to see a bigger view. They were sure a big step above our income level!
We stopped at an anchorage in Fort Pierce in order to see friends Thad and Cindy Harvey (and Eloise) who we met during our first Great Loop. They had been so sweet to pray for and keep up with Paula during her health issues that took us off the boat for 20 months. And besides, we owed them a celebratory dinner for the finishing of their Great Loop. Never mind that they had finished in November of 2016, shortly after we finished ours. This was the first time we had all been together since then. We took off just as if we hadn’t had a long gap. That’s what friends of the heart do.
One of the things we really have enjoyed as we travel the Great Loop are the houses we see along the banks. They range from the not-so-nice double-wide to the multi-million “keep up with the Jones'” mansions. Pictured below are just a few of the pictures Paula has taken in the miles from Marathon to Ft. Pierce. (You have to click on them to enlarge them to really appreciate them.)