Monday, April 20, 2015

Highlights from Marathon

Life in Marathon has been good, but it is almost time for us to set sail for North Bimini in the Bahamas. David has stayed crazy busy and hasn't gotten to relax much. Most of the time, he was working on a transmission leak, but he also dealt with an emergency toilet issue where he had to replace the outlet hose and dove below the boat to replace zincs and inspect the bottom (more on that below). We have had a lot of issues pop up that we didn't expect, and he has been able figure out how to fix all of them. He is truly awesome. I hope things stop breaking around here so he can have some down time.

It's been great staying on a mooring ball in the harbor. We pay a weekly rate of $110, which gives us access to the dinghy dock, laundry facilities, showers, Wi-Fi, and bike racks. We decided to take our bikes with us when we left Texas, and we store them in the work room at the front of the boat when we are underway. It's not easy getting them out of the boat, re-assembled, onto the dinghy, and then onto land, but it's all worth the trouble when we stay in the same place for an extended period of time. We have been lucky and have seen a lot of wildlife in the harbor. We've seen tons of dolphins, a sting ray, jellyfish, a baby manatee, and some pretty big fish. There is one part of the harbor that is really shallow (2 or 3 feet), and we have seen some dolphins in that area cruising along with their dorsal fin sticking out. Pretty cool that we get to see them on a daily basis.

Last week David donned his snorkel gear to go have a look at the bottom of the boat. The task was originally assigned to me, but I chickened out. I have a very unrealistic fear that I will get eaten by a shark if I can't see what's around me. Anyway back to what I was saying. Every so often, the boat has to be hauled out of the water, pressure washed, sanded, and re-painted since organisms like barnacles, mussels and other marine critters attach themselves to the bottom. We knew when we bought the boat that it was probably due for a bottom job, but we wanted to wait until we could dive down and actually see how bad it was before deciding (they run around $1000 to $1500 if you pay someone to do it for you). Unfortunately, it didn't look good so we'll have to pony up and have one done. Since we do not have time to get it done while in the Keys, we are waiting until we get to Georgetown in the Bahamas. I bought the paint yesterday at West Marine and paid $340 for two gallons. Yes, you read that correctly. Talk about sticker shock! And it was not even the best marine paint that you can buy. However, it is better than paying $500 a gallon, which is what it would have cost if we bought it in the Bahamas. Everything is quite expensive there, including alcohol and food. I was told that a case of beer costs around $50. That's just crazy. I stocked up on all our favorite food, beer, and wine on my last grocery run.

When we first arrived in Boot Key Harbor, we heard our neighbors talking on the cruisers net about a program called the Local Boater Option. We paid a little visit to them to find out more about it, and it turns out that it was Carolyn and her husband Dave from It was kinda cool meeting them since I started reading her blog when we first decided to buy a boat. Anyway, if you sign up for the Local Boater Option, you have an easier time checking into the U.S. and U.S. territories. Instead of having to go to shore to check in with Customs, you just call and let them know you've arrived. Easy peasy. We decided to apply to the program since we will be visiting Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. We both had to fill out an application online and then setup an interview with the Customs department in Key West, which is 58 miles from Marathon. Our interviews (if you can even call it that) were last Tuesday, and we took the bus to get there. I went in first since someone had to stay behind with the phones (no phones allowed in the building), gave the Customs official my passport, and ten minutes later I had my boaters card. No questions asked. After we were done, we did some sight-seeeing, and I have to say I LOVE KEY WEST. So much so that I told David I had found our new home after we are done with the cruising life. What do I love about it so much? The tree lined streets, the beautiful historic houses, the feral chickens that run around town (although I'm sure I'd get tired of all the cock-a-doodle-doos at the butt crack of dawn), Duval Street, the beach, and just the general relaxing atmosphere. We sampled some Key Lime pie at Kermit's and had a cocktail at Sloppy Joe's before heading to the beach at Fort Taylor. I had read some articles about the beaches in the Keys and wasn't expecting there to be much of a one. I was happily wrong. There was plenty of space to lay out, no seaweed, white sand (albeit a little rocky in some places), and pretty blue water. We didn't have our swim suits so we didn't stay long. After touring the fort, we hopped back on the bus and headed back to Marathon.

We also received our order of boat cards last week from Vista Print. They turned out really good in my opinion. I had never heard of these cards until we got here and people we met would hand us a card that had their boat name, email addresses, phone numbers, and blog address (if they had one). It's a great way to remember people because you meet so many new faces, and it's hard to keep track of names. Now I just need to find a good place to store the ones we received so I don't lose them.

The next time I post an entry we will hopefully be in the Bahamas. Just a few minutes ago, we looked at the weather and looks like we can leave tomorrow and be in Bimini in less than 24 hours. I am so freaking excited!!!!! I also wanted to say feel free to ask any questions or leave comments about any of our posts. Hope you enjoy the following pics.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Destin to Marathon

We stayed in Destin an extra day since we had put off doing laundry. To get to the laundromat, we planned on using the dinghy to go to shore and then hop on a bus that is used by tourists. Just as we made it to the bus stop, a black SUV pulled up next to it and the older gentleman driver asked us if we owned the Hinterhoeller in the harbor. I thought we might be in trouble for tying up our dinghy near a private dock,  but it turned out that he, Jack, had a condo nearby and watched us row to shore. He kindly offered to take us to our destination, and we took him up on it. How awesome was that! He was a sailor himself and knew how hard it could be getting around on land. He dropped us off at the laundromat and gave us his number in case we needed to call him for anything else. While waiting for our laundry to finish, we killed time by making eye splices in nylon rope to use for safety tethers, which would allow us to attach them to the harness on our inflatable PFDs (personal floatation device). Whenever we are sailing and are outside, we wear our PFDs and connect our tethers to the jack lines that run along the length of the boat. This prevents us from accidently falling off and getting lost at sea. We grabbed a pizza when we were done and decided to walk the two miles back to the boat.

Handmade Eye Splices

We left Destin on 3/24 and planned to do a non-stop sail to St. Petersburg. We needed to go 100 miles on the first day in order to stay in front of a cold front, which was forecast to bring high winds and seas. Unfortunately, the winds were blowing from the exact direction we needed to go and the waves had a particularly annoying period. They were spaced so that when one wave was at our stern the second wave was at our bow and would set the boat pitching like a see-saw. We were only moving about 2 miles an hour towards our destination. The next morning we decided to head for land, find a safe anchorage, and wait out the cold front. We anchored by St. Joseph’s Bay and then got back on the ICW for a day until we made it to Carrabelle Beach. During the short trip down the ICW, we stopped at Apalachicola to re-fuel and pick up some groceries. It was a charming little town that had a bustling downtown area. We stopped for a cold beer at the Oyster City Brewery Company and chatted with a couple of locals.
We left Carrabelle beach on the 29th and made it to St. Petersburg early on the 31st. As soon as we docked at a marina, we called Rebecca (David’s cousin’s wife), and she offered to come pick us up, let us do laundry at their house, and spend the night (to sleep in an actual bed was heavenly!). She, Travis, and their 3 kids were awesome! We hadn’t been able to let them know when we’d be arriving since we’d been without cell service for a few days, but they accommodated us at the drop of a hat. We went for a sail the next day and then headed for the beach at Fort Desoto. It was a great two day visit!
The next day it was time to leave for the Florida Keys! It was an uneventful but pretty 48 hour sail. The water color around us would change periodically, and we saw deep blues, bright light blues, and light blue-greens. We were able to watch dolphins swim underwater alongside the boat when the water was light enough. It was all very peaceful.

We arrived in Marathon, which is 58 miles northeast of Key West, on Saturday, April 4th. There is a mooring field in Boot Key Harbor that is ran by the city, and it has space for around 230 boats. We were hoping to get a mooring ball, which would allow us to use the marina facilities while in Marathon, but they were full when I called that morning. We anchored right outside the harbor to wait for a spot to open up. On Saturday night we went to Dockside Tropical CafĂ© since we could tie our dinghy up behind the restaurant. You literally step up into the restaurant from the dinghy. There was a live band playing, which had an awesome fiddle player, and it was pretty crowded. We were looking around for a hostess so we could be seated, and this guy came up and started talking to us. He thought we were tourists, and he was trying to get David to book a fishing trip with him. Once he found out we were cruisers, his whole attitude changed and acted like we were old friends. He bought us a round of beers and introduced us to his wife and table of friends. Steve (aka Captain Inappropriate) told us to get on channel 68 on the VHF radio the next morning to introduce ourselves to the harbor. They have a cruisers net every morning where you can ask questions, learn about local events, and buy/sell/trade items. It’s been very informative and helpful.

On Easter Sunday, we took our dinghy to Bahia Honda State Park, which is eight miles from Marathon. It has three beaches, and I read that one of them, Sandspur beach, has been ranked the #1 beach in the continental US. I don’t think we found the right beach though because the one we went to didn’t have much of a beach to speak of and had a lot of grass growing in the water. The water was crystal clear though and we pulled out our snorkel gear. We will need to make another trip out here before leaving Marathon so we can hang out on the right beach.
For the next week or so, we will be staying in Marathon to get a few boat projects done, and then we’ll head to Bimini, which is in Bahamas. It won't be all work and no play though. I want to explore everything in this area that I can, like the Turtle Hospital, Dolphin Research Center, Sombrero Beach and reef, and the Dry Tortugas National Park. Also, there is a large live aboard community here, which hosts things like yoga and sailing parties, so hopefully we will get to meet some new people. I am looking forward to staying in one spot for a while!!

7 mile bridge

Bahia Honda State Park