The Motor Vessel "Once Around"

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

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Checkmark on The Admiral's Bucket List

One of the things Carrie has wanted to do for a long time (and mentioned about a bazillion times as we approached Florida) was to do an airboat ride in the Everglades.  She says she has wanted to do it since the days of “Miami Vice” and is reminded so every time she watches “CSI Miami”.  Whatever.  Wednesday she got her wish.
Fred and Julaine from Boreas joined Carrie, Leo and me for the “3 hour tour”.  We were up at 6:00 AM, had breakfast and drove the hour and a half up to Florida City near Miami.  We arrived at 9 AM at “Airboats in Everglades” where we met our driver, John, and took off for an enjoyable morning in the swamp.  John said he had grown up there and had been airboating the Everglades for 40 years, the last 10 of them as a guide.  He knew his stuff, and we learned a lot.
For example, did you know that the Everglades "swamp" is actually a fresh water river?  It measures 55 miles wide and 120 miles long, and it flows at an approximate rate of 1 mile per day, making it the slowest flowing river in the world.  It is fed from underground aquifers from as far away as Canada, and supplies the drinking water for Miami, the rest of Dade County and elsewhere.  Pictures obviously tell this story better than I could, so here goes:
The Airboat and the crew. left to right, front row, Julaine and Fred from Boreas; back row, Leo, me and the Admiral

Leaving the landing area

I think this was called a tri-color heron

Does this look like alligator country to you?

Does this?

Sure does to this guy!

One of the bird species lives entirely off a worm found inside this yellow flower

We spooked these guys as we drove by

Leo enjoys the ride

This guy wasn't spooked however

John driving, me riding shotgun, Leo and his mom and Julaine.  Photo by Fred

OK, this guy actually stared us down!

This little red beaked guy was beautiful

Another interesting bird

The sawgrass "prairie".  No this is not land...

...we are running right through it at about 30-35 mph

The "Alligator Lily"

the last wildlife caught on camera that day!

By shortly after noon we were on the road back to Key Largo and we were all smiles, especially my Admiral.
Check that one off the list!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Very Special Delivery-Air Freight

Remember the seaplane photo in one of my recent blogs?  He was delivering passengers to Little Palm and a little light bulb went on in my head.  Shortly thereafter I had arranged for the pilot to surprise our son, Leo, who flew in Friday from Sacramento to Miami.  Leo was expecting a shuttle van, or at best a car, to deliver him last the hundred miles or so from Miami International to Hawk’s Cay on Duck Key.  Instead Leo got to be delivered in the seaplane and land right beside the marina.  The Admiral (his mother) and I scooted out in our dinghy and retrieved him.  It was all quite spectacular and the marina crowd thought it was pretty cool, as did our son.
Our very special delivery arrives

Hawk's Cay Marina from our slip
So, what does a 23 year old guy do when he gets to the Florida Keys for the first time?  Well, he does what any normal 23 year old guy does on vacation.  He parties, and he sleeps.  Leo does both well!
It was a holiday weekend and all the rental car companies were booked up.  So after only a couple of nights there, we were ready to head for our next stop at Key Largo.  We had a beautiful day to ride up Hawk’s Channel on Sunday, so we took off around ten o’clock for the four hour run. 
A view from our fly bridge of the beautiful blue water of the Keys

Leo continues his sleeping vacation!

Once Around entering Key Largo Inlet.  Leo took this following us in on the dinghy
By 2:30 PM we were tying off in a slip at Marina Del Mar in Key Largo.  Our friends from Boreas and Brandy IV were there already.
Once Around in Key Largo

Leo's sharp eye caught this little fella swimming by in the harbor
Monday, a holiday, was a rather downer day for me especially.  Julaine from Boreas was kind enough to run me down the ten miles or so to the emergency room.  The good news was that my foot was not broken, only sprained.  The bad news was yes, it was probably strep throat, so back on the antibiotics I had been on only two months earlier.  All in all, I was pretty happy as I had imagined finishing my last two months of the Loop up in one of those stylish boots Carrie had gotten to wear a year ago when she broke her toe.  Hey folks, don’t blame me, this Looping is rough business!
Tuesday I was especially glad Leo was there.  Although I was already feeling much better, he fit marginally better than I did under the forward bilge area where our shower sump had decided to fail.  The Bilge (you know what) was all over it, and four or five hours later, Leo had replaced the pump, float switch and cleaned out the clogged backflow preventer that had probably caused the burned up pump.  My First Mate scrubbed the bilge area as clean as a kitchen floor and life returned to normal on Once Around.  We wandered over to the local watering hole and had lunch. 
Leo in the bilge
A Tight Spot
On the way, we came upon “The African Queen” from the Bogart/Hepburn classic movie.  It is being restored here in Key Largo.  Since that is one of the Admiral’s favorite movies of all time, she was surprised to see the boat as it had been blown up in the final scene!  I had to remind her that was Hollywood, remember…she is blonde you know.  Anyway, it was pretty neat to see the African Queen up close.
Tuesday night we caught up with our old buddies Captain Ron and Jan from Jolly Tolly, who are staying in a marina a mile or so from us.  The five of us had dinner at The Fish House in Key Largo.  Leo heard some stories from the Loop (from someone besides his parents), and enjoyed a huge plate of stone crabs.  He also ate about half of Jan’s scallops and finished it off like the rest of us with a slice of excellent key lime pie.  We bid farewell to Jan and Ron as they are driving up to Tampa Wednesday and we may not see them again before we head north.  They are staying in Key Largo for a few more weeks and then heading for the Bahamas.  We wish we were going with them, but not this year…

Little Palm Island-The Last Word

Today I got an e mail from my friend Tom from Sarasota.  It was he and his First Mate Elaine that tipped us off about Little Palm in the first place.  He agreed completely with my assessment of the resort in my blog, and shared his favorite personal saying about the place.  I think it sums it up perfectly:
“Where else can you have so much fun…for so much?”

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Little Palm Island...The Rest Of The Story

OK, there were a few other nice things about our two night stay at Little Palm Island that I might have overlooked in my last post.  So here goes…
My First Mate and I have been lucky to spend vacation times in some pretty cool tropical places before.  We never thought we would find a place in the US that measured up to some of those we’d stayed in…like in Bora Bora, Tahiti for example.  Little Palm Island did just that.
Little Palm Island was developed after filmmakers brought in electricity for the filming of "PT 109".  Little Palm is accessible only by water.  It has only 30 “huts”, and most guests come over from an adjacent island on Little Palm Island’s boat, appropriately named, Escape.  There is also dock space for about a half dozen boats our size.  The day we arrived we were the only boat on the dock.  We were disappointed to learn that we had just missed our friends on Tropical Breeze by a few hours…such is life on the loop.  
Approaching Little Palm Island

Our slip was ready and waiting

Once Around at Little Palm Island

Our only company on the dock the first day was a seaplane delivering guests.  This gave me an idea...more about that later.
Everything on the island is first class, from the restaurants to the salon and spa.  We enjoyed every meal and relaxed with a “couples massage” one afternoon, which for the Admiral was followed by a manicure and a haircut.  For me it was followed by a couple of rum something or others at the pool bar.
the Admiral liked the way they measured the weather

The beach at Little Palm

the pool

The Key Deer are supposedly endangered...this guy was just pesky!

Beauty and the Beast (right to left, in case you were wondering)

The beach dining was very romantic
The only “negative” about Little Palm is the price (totally insane).  Two nights stay here brought new focus on our mantra, “We’re NOT on a budget and we’re sticking to it! 
We left Palm Island (OK, somewhat reluctantly) on Friday, headed for Hawk’s Cay Resort.  The “somewhat” part was due to our excitement about our son, Leo, who will be joining us for several days!


Friday, February 17, 2012

Little Palm Island

For the rest of my life, when I hear the song, “Just The Way You Look Tonight”, my first thoughts will most likely be of our last night at Little Palm Island.  The lyrics and a picture say it much better than I can ever say it myself:

Some day, when I’m awfully low
When the world is cold
I will feel a glow just thinking of you
And the way you look tonight

You’re lovely, with your smile so warm
And your cheeks so soft
There is nothing for me but to love you
And the way you look tonight

With each word your tenderness grows
Tearing my fears apart
And that laugh that wrinkles your nose
Touches my foolish heart

Yes, you’re lovely, never ever change
Keep that breathless charm
Won’t you please arrange it?
‘Cause I love you
Just the way you look tonight

Just the way you look tonight
Darling, just the way you look tonight

'Nuff said.
More about Little Palm Island later…maybe.

Monday, February 13, 2012

My Pard'ner, Bobby

Our final week in Key West was shared with another set of visitors from home.  My long time good friend and business partner, Bobby, and his wife, Alisa, flew into Key West Airport last Wednesday and joined us on Once Around.  Bobby is as close a “brother” to me as I have ever had.  He, Carrie and I have been friends for over 30 years, and he is the “Bobby” referred to several times in this blog as my water skiing buddy.  We have worked together since those days, but it has been a long time since we’ve been able to vacation and relax together like this, and it was great. 
Alisa and Bobby

One of the first sights we enjoyed with them was the tour of the Harry S. Truman “Little White House”.  It was a step back into the 1950’s and a history lesson about the end of WWII, the Korean War and Truman’s other accomplishments.  President Truman spent quite a bit of time in Key West at his Little White House, and he is still loved here.
Little White House, Key West, FL
We also sampled more of the fine eating (and drinking) establishments here in Key West, and of course, spent quite a bit of time shopping on Duval Street. 
Me and Bobby
Alisa, Bobby, Carrie and me in the smallest bar in Key West.  It is wedged in between two buildings...this is the whole bar!
One night we attended a play at the local “Red Barn Theater”.  It was called God of Carnage and was a hilarious comedy about two couples who get together to discuss the fight their ten year old sons had gotten into at school.  What started out as a very civilized discussion degenerated over the next hour and a half into complete mayhem!  We laughed all the way back to the boat!
Believe it or not, if you Yelp restaurants here in Key West and sort the search by most highly rated, the only “five star” that comes up is Garbo’s.  In pure Key West fashion, Garbo’s turns out to be a tiny ”gourmet” food cart in a gravel parking stall on Front Street near the harbor.  I think a lot of people drive by and think the restaurant must have been torn down.  Bobby and I had lunch there one day while the ladies were getting decked out with manicures at the beauty salon nearby.  There is no place really to sit and eat at Garbo’s except on a few ice chests they have next to the cart.  Bobby and I overheard them tell another customer that they could take their lunch across the street to the pepper sauce store and sit at the counter trying various hot sauces on the food they brought from Garbo’s.  Seemed like a good plan to us.  The folks who came in after us had even more local knowledge, stopping first at the bar next door for a roadie beer to wash down the hot sauce.  I had the best hot dog ever.  It had fresh mango slices, fresh jalapeno peppers and a “Caribbean sauce”.  We told the ladies about it and took them there a couple of days later.  This time I had a mahi-mahi burrito (and a beer this time) and tried about ten different sauces as I munched it down.  It is a classic Key West experience none of us is likely to forget, especially since each shipped about $50 worth of hot sauces home!
Alisa and Carrie at the world famous, Garbo's...
...and Garbo's menu board.  (The girl in the poster to the right is not actually on the menu!  We know, because Bobby and I inquired the day before!)
Our favorite dinner spot by far was Blue Heaven, where Rob, Carrie and I had lunch the previous week.  It was good for lunch, great for dinner (and the chickens Flat Stanley had met at lunch were fast asleep in the trees by dinner time!).
One of the axioms learned at the Looper Rendezvous’ is that if you invite guests to stay on your boat on the loop, be sure to invite a good cook, because you get tired of your own cooking.  Well, Alisa sure fits that requirement!  She made an excellent grilled snapper dinner for the four of us one night, and some mushroom bruschetta another night that we shared with Garth and Kathy from Algonquin and Rich and Carol from Salt n’ Sand who stopped by for cocktails. 
Today is Monday the 13th of February.  We had planned to depart from Key West today, but (surprise, surprise) the weather gods entered the picture.  It is a bit rough out there today, although we might have gone anyway except the Admiral has a bad cold and/or flu and I have a few early signs of the same.  Our next stop is supposed to be “Little Palm Island” which is a secluded resort accessible only by boat and according to our friend Elaine, “The most romantic spot in the world”.  We decided to wait till we felt better before going to such a nice place.  The weather looks good the rest of the week so hopefully we’ll get out of here Tuesday or Wednesday.  Even though Key West has been a blast, after three weeks we’re getting antsy to move on.
A Happy Valentine’s Day (one day early) to all you lovely ladies out there, especially my First Mate, my daughters Dina and Carla and my granddaughter Lia.  I love you girls.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Robbie and Flat Stanley

We had two visitors from Sacramento last week.  The first was planned; the second was kind of a surprise.
My buddy Rob had business in Oklahoma for a few days and planned to meet his wife Denise in Miami at the conclusion of his business trip, then drive down and spend a few days with us on Once Around in Key West.  Unfortunately, Denise got sick and the docs said she would risk blowing up her eardrums if she flew.  So, Robbie made the trip solo.  It was great to see my good friend, but we did miss Denise, and I know she was looking forward to Key West.  Hope she feels better soon.
Lucky for Rob, our seven year old grandson, Ben, just sent us “Flat Stanley” to keep Rob company.
Most of you probably have never heard of Flat Stanley.  Don’t feel bad, neither had we.  It seems "Flat Stanley" is a book (for 2nd graders) about a boy who wants to travel, but cannot afford a plane ticket.  He finally gets his wish after he is flattened to 1/4" by a falling bulletin board.  His mother can now mail him to his desired destination.

Yes, Flat Stanley was mailed to Once Around here in Key West.  Grandma Carrie and I are to show him around…and send back photos of Flat Stanley’s vacation!  Ben’s homework became ours!
Now truthfully, Flat Stanley is a great boat guest.  He is very quiet, eats nothing and sleeps anywhere.  Our only problem with Flat Stanley is he is not waterproof, and his arms are so skinny you have to be careful not to rip them off his body.  But that’s another story, huh Grandma Carrie?
Anyway, Flat Stanley and Rob had a great visit to Key West.  We did all the sights together:
Here's Flat Stanley with Rob at breakfast

We rode the Conch Train and Flat Stanley got to visit with the Engineer

The Conch Train

But he had to ride with Grandma Carrie

Flat Stanley at the Southernmost Point in the Continental USA!

We ate lunch at Blue Heaven, and Flat Stanley got to visit with the roosters there!

He even got to help me drive the dinghy...

...and met some members of the US Coast Guard

We did our best to show Flat Stanley all the good sites and sounds of Key West and introduce him to nothing but the finest folks.  However, there are a few pirates and pirate ships that operate out of Key West and Flat Stanley saw them on our dinghy ride. 

One of the pirates Flat Stanley saw!

Like most second graders, Flat Stanley seemed to like the pirates best!

Flat Stanley as he heads back home after a week in Key West, Florida!!!

We said goodbye to Rob on Monday (he had a pirate hat and patch too, but he was camera shy!).  Although Flat Stanley has remained with us for a few days longer, we need to mail him back to Ben soon.  I'm sure Ben has lots of other fun places to take him!