The Motor Vessel "Once Around"

The Motor Vessel "Once Around"
The Motor Vessel "Once Around" in the Florida Keys

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Bad Ice!

We have spent the past few days here in Key West just enjoying the sunshine, checking out the shopping and visiting with fellow Loopers and their friends.  Algonquin actually got their transmission fixed (correctly this time it seems) and was able to get down here on Thursday.  Kathy and Garth have a couple of boat guests from their home town of Toronto staying with them.  They are at Galleon Marina a short walk from Conch Harbor where Once Around is docked. 
Friday was the 29th anniversary of my 30th birthday.  My first Mate and I had dinner reservations for the two of us at a place one of the locals told us was one of the best in town.  At about 10 AM we left the boat to meet the crews from Boreas and Brandy IV who had driven into Key West for the day.  As we walked down the waterfront, my First Mate said she had forgotten something at the boat.  As luck would have it, we were right in front of The Schooner Bar.  Larry from Abreojos had just emailed us to tell us The Schooner made “the best Bloody Marys in the world.”  What the heck, it was a little early, but it was my birthday, so why not.  When Carrie returned, I was finishing my first and told the bartender I had to run, but assured him that he would see me again over the next couple of weeks.  It really was an outstanding Bloody Mary.
We met up with Fred, Julaine and Fred’s son (Fred  2) from Boreas, along with John and Rita from Brandy IV.  The bunch of us traipsed up and down Duval Street all day, which is the main drag for shopping and eating.   The Algonquin gang did the smart thing and rented a golf cart (or two or three, each time we saw them they seemed to be in a different one???)  They honked and waved each time they passed, and once stopped and dropped off a birthday gift to me (a giant chocolate chip cookie and some awesome fudge).
Cart #1, front seat-Kathy and Garth, rear-Heather, Zeke and Stacey

Then Garth upsized to a Hummer!
We and the Boreas crew had lunch at Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville.  The top shelf Margaritas there are almost as good as the Bloody Mary at the Schooner.  I had two, and even the shopping started to get more interesting.  We met back up with John and Rita at the southernmost point in the continental US, and here’s the photo to prove it.
By about 3:30, we had gotten separated from the others and stopped in for a birthday “Rum Runner” at the Flying Monkey Bar.  By the time I finished mine and half of my First Mate’s, I was really starting to get going on this whole birthday thing.  Good thing, too, because an hour or so later we all ended up at some dive bar on Duval.  Knowing I had plans for the evening, I took it back a notch and just ordered a light beer.
That’s when John from Brandy IV decided he was going to buy me a drink for my birthday.  John is usually pretty quiet and reserved.  You gotta watch his kind.  The drink he bought turned out to be a double shot of bourbon straight up.  He paced me with a double shot of tequila, so I couldn’t wimp out, right?  “How ‘bout another”, John asks.  “Sure, why not…”
A group of four or five folks wandered up and this huge guy bellows at me, “HOW IN THE HELL DOES A GUY GO ABOUT GETTING’ A DRINK AROUND HERE?”
Having completely lost any filter for my own thoughts I yelled back, “FIRST YOU HAVE TO FIND SOMEONE WHO ACTUALLY GIVES A S_ _T!” 
Luckily the guy was in as good a mood as I was (it was probably his birthday too), so we both laughed and he worked his way into the bar.  The Admiral just gave me “the look”.
Left to right:  "Quiet John", Julaine, Fred 2, Rita, Fred, Heather, Kathy, Stacey and Carrie.

"Sloppy Joes", notable for two things:  1) Earnest Hemmingway drank here regularly; 2) It is one of the few places I did not have a birthday drink!
Fred 2 wanted to check out Once Around, so we all walked back to the boat at around 6:30.  OK, the Red Stripe beer John and I each downed there were probably not really necessary.  At about 7:00 our guests said their goodbyes and wandered off to dinner.  I needed a cold shower if I was going to make dinner at all, but as I rose I heard the Admiral on the phone with the restaurant changing my birthday dinner reservations to Saturday.  I didn’t argue too much.  I wasn’t feeling really well at all and am not even sure if we ate dinner or not.  I remember my dad under these circumstances had a theory that somewhere along the line he must have gotten some “bad ice”.  I was pretty sure I had all the symptoms.  When I woke up this morning I was positive that “bad ice” was the culprit, as I had an awful headache and a bit of an upset stomach. 
The Admiral took no pity.  We walked about eight miles to the grocery store and lugged a couple of hundred pounds of groceries back.  OK, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but not much.  Then she ordered me to sweat it out working in the sun all day polishing the stainless on Once Around. 
Apparently she didn’t buy any part of my “Bad Ice” theory.
Only late in the day did she allow any fun at all with a dinghy ride around the harbor.
No, the Turtle Museum is not that popular...this is the dinghy dock for most of the bars on the waterfront.

Pirate sighting

One of the nice boats we passed

And, one of the not-so-nice ones in the anchorage
 We're headed off to my "Birthday dinner" shortly.  Hopefully this place doesn't have any "Bad Ice"!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Key West and the "Conch Republic"

Monday’s cruise of 45 miles to Key West was a bit lumpy, but not too bad.  The wind was again from the east, so behind us, which makes for a squirrely ride, but not a terrible one. 
Let’s talk a minute about crab pots!  From Marathon to Key West, we had an almost constant fight to keep from running over them.  I have not mentioned them much, although there were certainly plenty of them to avoid on our cruise to Marathon.  For those of you not familiar, the crab fishermen set long rows of traps, with a float attached to each.  The float is about the size of a grapefruit and difficult to see in the waves, especially when some of them are painted black or blue.  Five hours of squinting to see them and dodging them gets real frustrating.  Worse, if you manage to run over one, the line can get caught in your propeller, wind up on the shaft, drag the crab trap up from the bottom and slam into your boat and damage your running gear.   It can also stall your motor if enough rope gets around the shaft.  Once Around has line cutters on the shaft, but I am told they are not 100% foolproof.  I am not a 100% fool (OK, maybe close) so I do my best to avoid them in what sometimes feels like a minefield of crab pots.  It is also very difficult to maintain a course when you are dodging these things.  Here is a photo of my chart plotter.  The purple line is my intended course, the dotted line is my actual track. 
The crab pot cha-cha
Other than that, the cruise was gorgeous.  The weather is in the high seventies this week with a 10-15 MPH breeze.  Not sure it gets much better than that!  We arrived at Conch (pronounced Conk) Marina in Key West at around 1:00 PM.  We managed to “negotiate” our way into a 65’ slip, so we can launch our dinghy at will while in the slip.  The Admiral likes to do harbor cocktail tours in the evening, and there are lots and lots of beautiful boats to see while doing so.
I just thought this was the coolest looking marina

One of our neighbors
Key West is the southernmost point in the continental United States.  An average of one cruise ship a day stops here.  The atmosphere is of one laid back party.  The streets are lined with either shops and restaurants or island style homes.  There are even some old Victorian homes from the city’s past.  There is a Cuban section, a Bahamian section and even the Harry S. Truman “Little White House”. 
On a tip from a fellow boater, the Admiral and I took a tour on the “Conch Train”.  Yeah, I know, kinda dorky, but the guy was right, you get a great overview of the layout of the city and an idea of the colorful history of the place.  We will be here for three weeks, so I’ll have plenty of time to bore you with that stuff, but I do have to tell you the story of the “Conch Republic”, which I found to be hilarious.
It seems back in 1982, the US Border Patrol suddenly and without warning set up a roadblock at the point where all road traffic from the Keys crosses into mainland Florida.  They were apparently looking for illegals and contraband, but the consequence was a seventeen mile traffic jam.  When word got out, tourism came to a complete stop.
Frustrated and a bit pissed off, the locals first tried to get an injunction in Federal Court, making the argument that since the Keys were part of Florida, you couldn’t have a “border crossing” between the two.  When the court refused to grant the injunction they sought, they took their argument to the next logical step.  If the Border Patrol was stopping people entering and leaving mainland Florida over at Florida City, then it follows that they were in effect saying that they Keys must be a foreign country!  The mayor of Key West then signed a proclamation declaring the Conch Republic to be a free and independent country!  Of course, all this was done with lots and lots of TV coverage.  The Feds weren’t as amused as the TV reporters and the rest of the world, and carloads of suit and tie clad agents descended upon Key West (to quell the rebellion?).   As the story goes, the citizens then attacked the conspicuous federal officials with loaves of stale Cuban bread.  The attack lasted only minutes before the Conch Republic’s now Prime Minister (formerly mayor) surrendered to the US Naval commander at the base and requested “foreign aid” from the conquering US Government.
The resulting public relations nightmare brought an immediate end to the boarder blockade, and the matter simply faded away.  The US Government never officially recognized the matter of the declaration of independence made by the Conch Republic, nor made one comment on record.  However, I got to thinking that Ronald Reagan was President during the Conch rebellion.  I can imagine the Gipper got quite a chuckle out of this one!  Locals here are still awaiting the billions of foreign aid they requested.
Footnote:  The Conch Republic did adopt its’ own flag.  It is customary, when a boat visits a foreign country, to fly that country’s flag on the starboard halyard of the vessel.  My sharp eyed Admiral found the proper flag in a shop yesterday, so it will fly on Once Around for the duration of our stay in the Keys of Florida…or…”The Conch Republic” if you will.

My First Mate displays the Conch Republic flag...

...which now flies on Once Around

Sunday, January 22, 2012

On to Marathon

After our abrupt departure from Marco Island, our crossing to Marathon, expected to take around ten hours, was a beautiful ride.  It was a sunny day, and we were travelling with the slight wind at our back, so on our fly bridge we were in shorts and tee shirts.  The seas were 2-3 feet, and my First Mate and I were enjoying some Jimmy Buffet and Kenny Chesney tunes to get us in the mood for the Keys.  We had been looking forward to this for months.
Algonquin on the Gulf crossing to Marathon
We weren’t sure just exactly where the heck we were going to stay that night, because we hadn’t planned to go to Marathon at all.  We began trying to reach marinas in Marathon as we left Marco Island, but were soon out of cell range.  Oh well, something would turn up.  If not, we had an ace in the hole.  We had met a generous fellow boater in Fort Myers who it seems has a small house in Marathon with a 50 foot dock in his back yard.  He had drawn a map to it on our charts and told us to use it if all else failed.
About two thirds through the crossing, Algonquin radioed to tell us they were going to kick the speed up to their maximum to blow their engines out for a few minutes.  This is good practice for diesels, so we told them we would do the same.  About two minutes into this, Algonquin slowed and radioed again that they had lost power on their port side completely.  We idled around for about an hour while Garth determined it was actually his transmission.  He had had it repaired twice in the past few months, and it was blown again. 
Garth secured the port shaft and got back under way using only the starboard engine.  He could only manage about seven knots, so he would be getting to Marathon well after dark.  He told us to go on ahead.  We agreed, but first we made a boat hook pass of our night vision camera from Once Around to Algonquin, a move that was more difficult than we expected, but which went off without a hitch.  They were happy to have the night vision aid. 
Once Around scooted on ahead at about fourteen knots, arriving at the seven mile bridge in Marathon about an hour before sunset.  It took another half hour to get into Sombrero Marina where we had finally secured a slip for the night. 
The Seven Mile Bridge across the Keys at Marathon was a welcome sight

The harbor at Marathon was an even a better sight
We passed Tropical Breeze on a mooring on the way in, and Doug was on the radio immediately welcoming us in.  He and Barb had been in Marathon for quite some time, and we hadn’t seen them since Canada or maybe Michigan last summer.  We promised to get together with them before leaving Marathon.
At our slip we were met by Fred and Julaine from Boreas and John and Rita from Brandy IV, who had arrived in Marathon that day as well.  We were beat and hungry, but the day would not be over until Algonquin was safely in port.  We stayed in radio contact as a local fisherman guided them through the winding harbor in the dark.  Garth managed a spectacularly executed back-in to his slip using one engine and his bow thruster which drew applause from the fishermen and those of us on the dock.  Maneuvering a 53’ Hatteras backwards on one engine is no small feat!
We all took a deep sigh of relief and headed immediately to the Dockside Bar for much needed cocktails and a late dinner.  I think everyone slept well that night.
Friday morning my First Mate and I decided to try and stay the weekend in Marathon.  Our original reservations in Key West were for Monday anyway, and there were lots of folks here to hang with.  Sombrero Marina said we could stay right where we were for the next few nights, which sounded good to us.  The weather here is high 70’s with about a 5-10 mph breeze.  In other words, it’s perfect.  We’re just going to hang loose for awhile…
On our walk to the market on Sunday, a couple of bikers waved as if they knew us as they passed.  I jokingly said to Carrie, "Friends of yours?"  We figured they had mistaken us for someone else, but as they slowed and turned to come back to us we were really confused.  As the first one pulled up close with a big grin on his face, we recognized Sid from Something Special.  He and his brother-in-law had rented Harleys for the day and were headed to Key West to meet up with Evelyn and her sister.  Sid has a way of showing up at the strangest times, but this one really caught us off guard!
Sid the biker
Saturday evening we met up with Barb and Doug from Tropical Breeze at the local watering hole, the Dockside Bar.  "Dinner" consisted of appetizer plates of conch fritters and nachos, along with several rounds of drinks.  We were joined by the crews from Boreas, Brandy IV and Brown Eyed Girl.  We compared Loop experiences and laughed most of the night away.
left to right:  Carrie, Barb (Tropical Breeze), Julaine & Fred (Boreas) and Doug (Tropical Breeze)

The other end of the table, Craig and Jinny (Brown Eyed Girl) and John (Brandy IV)...and Carrie agian!
Once Around will be moving on to Key West on Monday if the current weather report holds.  We plan to stay there about three weeks.  We are looking forward to two separate sets of great friends from home who plan to join us there during our stay.
Once Around in Marathon, FL

Saturday, January 21, 2012

That Girl's a Keeper!

More years ago than I like to remember, when I was courting my First Mate, my friend Bobby and I swung by her apartment at around 8:00 AM one Saturday morning, unannounced.  We were off to the river for a day of water skiing and decided at the last minute to stop by and see if she would like to come along.  She awoke to a ringing doorbell and the two of us pounding on her front door.  Still bleary eyed from sleep, she peered through the cracked opening and said, “What the heck are you two up to this early?”  Being the suave and sophisticated guy that I am I replied, “If you want to go water skiing with us today, you’ve got ten minutes to be in the truck!”
Now I think a lot of girls would have just slammed the door and gone back to bed.  But Care, who wore her hair in a tight curled perm in those days, showered, threw on her swimsuit and bounced into the cab of my Chevy pickup in about nine minutes with that huge smile of hers brightening the morning.   Bobby just looked over at me and said, “Dude, that girl’s a keeper!”  The rest, as they say, is history.
Why do I bring this up now?
Well, Thursday morning at Esplanade Marina in Marco Island, I woke up around 6:45, and as is my usual practice, went in to the galley, started to make a cup of coffee and check the weather report.  Before I even had the coffee going, I decided that our planned crossing for Friday (the next day) was going to have a miserable 2-4 foot beam sea, for at least eight hours.  For you non-boaters, that means waves hitting you from the side, which rocks your world, and although the boat would handle it fine, would be miserable for the crew.
I immediately got on the phone to Garth on Algonquin, who told me he had just left the dock.  I asked him if he could give me ten minutes and Once Around would join him on his ten hour trip to Marathon in the Keys.  He was glad to have the company and said he would idle in the bay there until we could be ready.
Now, the Admiral doesn’t wear her hair in a perm anymore.  She also loves that I bring her a cup of coffee in bed every morning when I hear her stirring, which is usually an hour or so after I am up.  But on this day, I started the engines on Once Around and hollered down to her, “LET’S GO, THE WEATHER CHANGED, WE’RE LEAVING IN TEN MINUTES!!!”   I began untying lines, disconnected the shore power, fired up the electronics and checked around the boat for anything else needing attention.  Within minutes my First Mate was dressed, donned her baseball cap, and we were off.
In the fifteen minutes or so it took me to guide Once Around through the harbor and out the inlet into the Gulf, my First Mate stowed the fenders, coiled the lines, sea-proofed the cabin and joined me on the fly bridge with my first hot cup of coffee of the day.
She probably was wondering why her captain was smiling so broadly when she handed me the warm mug of coffee.  All I could think of at the time was, Boy, that girl’s a keeper!

Naples and Marco Island

We stayed at Naples Boat Club Monday night.  To say Naples is an upscale area doesn’t do it justice.  The Admiral said the shopping district reminded her of Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills!  She was on a power walk dressed in boating clothes, and said she felt like a “bag lady” compared to all the folks dressed to the nines in Naples. 
On the dock we noticed a boat from Gold River, California, which is just east of Sacramento and not far from our home.  After dwelling on the name of the boat for a while (Champagne Lulu II), my First Mate said she thought she remembered a boat by that name in our old home port of Willow Berm, down in the San Joaquin delta.  I should have known better than to be skeptical, because sure enough, when we met the folks they were as shocked as we were to find some Willow Berm alumni wandering around Florida.  It seems they have been doing so on and off since having their boat shipped out here in 2005.  They completed the Great Loop in 2008 and since then have commuted back and forth from Sacramento to Florida to boat.  Hmmm…now there’s a thought.
Neighbors on two coasts...Champagne LuLu II
Our one night in Naples was really not enough.  However, watching the weather we felt compelled to keep moving south as there appears to be a great weather window approaching during which we can make our next offshore crossing to Key West or Marathon.  Reconnecting with Boreas and Brandy IV has been great, and we tagged along with them on the short hop from Naples to Marco Island on Tuesday.  The weather was beautiful for our cruise.
Following Boreas and Brandy IV into the inlet at Marco Island
Marco Island is another upscale area with dozens of marinas.  We chose the Esplanade, and all three of us pulled in around 1 PM. 
Approaching Eslplanade Marina, Marco Island

The shops at Esplanade from the deck of Once Around
Within an hour or two all three Admirals, (Julaine, Rita and Carrie) were in the salon getting pedicures.  Carrie even got brave enough to get a haircut.  Her bravery paid off, as the stylist listened and did exactly what the Admiral ordered.  Whew, lucky for her (the stylist).  I hung out on the dock with Fred, John and another gold Looper, Bill from Loose Stones (a gorgeous 52 Krogen Express) who we met when we arrived. 
Loose Stones with Once Around in the background

Side view of Loose Stones...she's a beauty

A couple of the loudest boats I've ever heard
Boreas and Brandy IV slipped their lines here at Marco Wednesday morning shortly after sunrise.  They were headed for Little Shark River (anchorage) that night, then on to Marathon in the Keys on Thursday.  We decided to stay at Marco Island for one or two more nights.  The weather window looked like it would hold and we were able to move our Key West reservations at Conch Harbor up from Monday the 23rd to this Friday.  
Meanwhile, the Admiral went back to the salon Wednesday morning for a manicure, and I readied the boat for the trip.  I am learning to work the chart plotter better each time (thanks again Santa) and quickly plotted our course for the crossing.  We borrowed a car from the nice folks on Loose Stones and hit the grocery store for provisions.  Later in the afternoon we launched the dinghy and cruised around to a couple of other marinas in Marco Island to see if Algonquin had shown up as scheduled.  No sign of them, so we cruised up the inter coastal a few miles north of Marco Island just to enjoy the natural beauty of the mangrove trees through there.
This one's for my niece
Returning to Esplanade marina, we found Algonquin had arrived while we were out playing and we had cocktails aboard and met for dinner at Mangos Bistro later.  It is now Zeke's (their dog’s) favorite restaurant as it actually had a couple of “dog dish” choices on the menu.  Zeke had the chicken and woofed it.  We said goodbye to our Canadian friends as they were planning on leaving around 7:00 AM Thursday for Marathon.  If everything worked out we would meet again in Key West in a week or less.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Hiking, Grandparents and Headin' South

Between sore throats, travel days and golf carts, it had been awhile since we had had much exercise.  My Admiral is adamant about the subject, so I knew she would be ordering a “forced march” for the two of us soon.  My dad used to say, “If you’re being run out of town, get right out in front of the crowd and make it look like a parade!”  Following that logic, I beat the Admiral to the punch when we woke up in our anchorage Friday morning by announcing, “I have a great idea, why don’t we pack up a picnic lunch and dinghy over to the State Park and do some hiking?”  This was met with the same excitement from her as we get from Zeus, our chocolate Labrador, when we ask him, “Wanna’ go for a walk?”  She darn near broke her neck running around in circles chasing her tail…no wait, that’s what Zeus does…
The Costa Cay State Park is on the island between our anchorage in Pelican Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.  Our dinghy ride to the dock was less than a quarter of a mile long.  Once there, we checked in at the Ranger Station there to get some info on the area.  We knew we were in trouble when we asked the guy behind the desk (not a Ranger, a docent perhaps?) where the best hiking was, and he had trouble finding the “you are here” location on the map on his wall!  With a little help with the map from the Park Ranger in the adjacent office, we soon were off and running…well, walking anyway.
My smiling First Mate
We travelled to the north end of the island, where we could see across the Boca Grande Inlet to the lighthouse we had seen (via golf cart) a day or two before, then around the gulf side of the island to a secluded beach.  The foliage on some of the hike was quite dense, and during most of our three to four mile stroll we did not encounter anyone.   At one point however the quiet was suddenly pierced by a snorting and rustling sound, as a feral pig (my guess is about 200 pounds of pig) came squealing, grunting and charging out of the underbrush running right across the path about twenty feet in front of us.  At this point my First Mate blurts out, “Was that an ROUS?”  (For those of you not familiar with the movie Princess Bride, that is what the hero called the “Rodents of Unusual Size” that attacked them in the fire swamp!).  Thankfully, the pig was more scared of us than we were of him.  Well, that might not be exactly true, but the pig didn’t know that.  We saw two or three more of these fellows further on in our hike, but they were well off our path.  Maybe pig number one had put the word out that we were stalking him.  No actual ROUS’s were sighted.
It was out of this brush the pig attacked...well, ran past

The foilage on the west side of the island was not so dense
Anyway, we had a great hike and stopped along the way for a light lunch that my First Mate had prepared before leaving Once Around.  We then strolled along the white sand beach and found a few shells to take back with us.  The beach, as always, reminded us of our two grandkids who love the beach in California.  My daughter had just posted some photos of them sledding down some big sand dunes at Bodega Bay.  The look on their faces is one of pure delight.  Boy do we miss those rascals.
Found a few shells here...but no grandkids...
Back on Once Around by late afternoon, we were again reminded that although the weather is nice in Florida, it is still winter time.  Another cold front from up north was beginning to flow through as predicted.  We put out a little more anchor rode, as winds up to 25 knots were expected over night.  Before you feel too sorry for us, this cold front is expected to take the high temperatures down to about 65 degrees for a day or two.  I spoke last night to Doug from Moonstruck, who is in the Twin Cities, where the temperature at the time was 14 degrees, and they had a 20 mph adding a wind chill to that!  Somehow, we think we would rather be here!
Saturday we had reservations at Sanibel Island Marina, but due to the lousy weather, lots of boats just stayed put so they had to call us to tell us there was no room.  That was a first on the entire loop, but we made the best we could of it and ended up at the Sanibel Marriot on the other side of the harbor.  That night Garth and Kathy from Algonquin picked us up in their rental car and took us over to Sanibel to “Grandma Dot’s Seaside Saloon” for some good seafood and even better company.  Algonquin will be leaving Port Charlotte in a few days and we will probably cross paths again soon.
Once Around at the Marriot Sanibel room in the house!
Sunday we were happy to meet up again with Kymble and Judy, who live nearby and drove down for a visit as well.  We met them a year ago during our search for a loop boat.  They are our future son-in-law Evan’s grandparents.  As former boaters they wanted to hear everything about our loop adventure.  We talked for hours with them and enjoyed lunch there at the marina.  We hope to see them next in Sacramento on Evan and Carla’s big day in September!
Is there such a thing as grandparents in law once removed??? 
Monday we were up and off the dock by 7:00 AM.  We had a thirty mile run or so outside from Fort Meyers to Naples, Florida.  It was a beautiful morning and we had one foot seas.  The only hassle was dodging the crab pots which are thick and hard to see in the morning sunlight.
My photo assistant is getting better at this!
Entering the long run past the inlet and up to Naples, we saw some of the most spectacular homes yet.  There were too many to count or to pick a winner for the house of the day.  You pick:
We pulled up to the gas dock to top off Once Around before heading for our slip.  On the dock to help the dockmaster tend the lines were Fred and Julaine from Boreas.  We had crossed the Gulf with them and were glad to hook up again with them and Brandy IV for our next crossing.  Tomorrow we head for Marco Island, a short run, then we south to Key West or Marathon…our JELLO plans are still being formed…

Friday, January 13, 2012

Cheeseburger in Paradise

Tuesday we had a gorgeous day’s cruise (40 miles) down the Inter Coastal Waterway from the Field Club in Sarasota, through the City of Venice and on to the island getaway of Boca Grande (aka Gasparilla Island).  It was a warm day, and the Admiral kept herself busy trying to find the “house of the day”, which proved to be impossible given the number of beautiful homes we saw along the route.  Carrie's dolphin buddies joined us quite a few times along the way.
My First Mate thought this little cabana was nice...
...but, this one was having a bad hair day!
And, we saw some rather odd architectural elements here!
Manatees are protected with 5 mph zones.  Haven't actually seen a manatee yet though.
We arrived at the Boca Grande Marina, a small but well run place with a nice little restaurant and ship’s store in the mid afternoon. 
Boca Grande Marina from our slip

Sticker on the boat next to us...I want one!
The island is seven miles from end to end, and the marina was about two miles from the south end.  We rented a golf cart for our two day stay as there were plenty of shops, restaurants and sites to see. 
One of the light houses on Boca Grande

The Gulf side of the island

Quaint street in Boca Grande

Part of downtown
We spent an hour or two at a beach bar snacking on grilled “mojito” shrimp (me) and pot stickers (my allergic to shellfish first mate).  A couple of rum and cokes to wash it down seemed appropriate.  This was our first taste of “island life”, which we plan to enjoy for the next couple of months in the Keys.  Meanwhile, I discovered another future job opportunity for me once I truly retire:
We quickly cruised around the downtown area scoping out the shops on our way back to the boat.  A simple dinner of grilled grouper and rice on board and we were down for the count.
Next day, the Admiral announced our plans for shopping (our plans?) would have to wait.  It seems she too now had come down with a sore throat.  Our search for a clinic or pharmacy on the island proved fruitless, so we needed to get her into town.  Judy (from Moonstruck) came to the rescue.  Already planning on visiting us and delivering a package we had shipped to their home, Judy offered to drive Carrie back into civilization (about 10 miles) to a doctor and drugstore.  They were back in time for a late lunch at the marina cafĂ©, but after Judy left, Carrie went below for “a quick nap” that pretty well shot the afternoon.  She must have needed it.  By dinnertime she had rallied and we ate at “PJ’s Sea Grill”.  Recommended by a local, it turned out to be an excellent find.
We were told checkout time at the marina was 11:00 AM, but they allowed us to stay longer as we were waiting for the tide to rise a bit.  Pelican Bay, an anchorage we were planning on heading to, has a bit of a shallow bar at the entrance.  We had an early breakfast in town followed by golf cart aided “power shopping” at some of the nice boutiques there.  The Admiral’s sore throat was gone!  Returning to the marina, we slipped our lines and had another very short cruise (4 miles) to Pelican Bay.  By 2:00 PM we were swinging at anchor in a beautiful bay with a half dozen other boats. 
Our 130' neighbor, Hilarium, in Boca Grande Marina
Once Around at anchor in Pelican Bay
View of Pelican Bay
Our first order of business was to launch the dinghy and head for Cabbage Key Marina and Restaurant a few miles south.  By 3:00 we were chowing down on a “cheeseburger in paradise”.  No kidding.  Legend has it that this little spot, accessible only by boat, is where Jimmy Buffet wrote one of his most famous songs.  True or not these folks are capitalizing on it quite well!  Although we enjoyed our burger on the patio, Carrie snapped a photo of the interior of the bar, where every square inch of wall space was covered by dollar bills inscribed by patrons. 
The only way to get to Cabbage Key...

Approaching Cabbage Key Restaurant and Marina

...and once inside

The house of the day on Useppa Island near Cabbage Key
The weather here is a very comfortable 73 degrees, with a soft breeze blowing that cools the boat down naturally.  Quiet...listen carefully…you can almost hear steel drums playing in the background…