Thursday, October 8, 2015

After 10 days of rest and exploration, we sailed out this morning for a day of snorkeling at Sombrero Key Light. Built in 1859 of cast iron, in a skeletal octagonal style, it is the tallest light in the Florida Keys at 142’. Located just 5.5 miles from Marathon on the edge of the Florida Reef, the Sombrero Reef sanctuary is rated as the top snorkeling spot in the Keys. Mooring balls are provided to keep boats from anchoring and damaging the coral. We got there early and secured a ball close in, and were immediately amazed at the clarity of the water and the amount and variety of fish.

light
Sombrero Key Light
amazing reef
amazing reef
reef - from above
reef – from above
a view of under from above
a view of under from above

I was hesitant to dive in fearing I would hit the fish, but figured they would move and went for it. We spent the next three hours snorkeling this beautiful reef, with its many types of coral and species of fish. We just couldn’t get enough of this beauty, that Karen dubbed “God’s aquarium”.

Karen
Karen
Karen
Karen

We regret we didn’t have an underwater camera, but these vivid memories will stay with us for a long time. We didn’t see any sharks, but heard other boats yell they had spotted nurse sharks. We went looking for them but they had gone.


I fed the fish some barbeque chips which they must have liked, because they would make the water boil fighting for the snack.

fish and chips
fish and chips
yellow fin
yellow fin

Jelly fish started showing up after lunch, and although we didn’t get stung they impeded further enjoyment.

pretty jellyfish
pretty jellyfish
lots of company
lots of company

We then proceeded to the Gulf Stream (500 yards to the south) to do some fishing. The water changed from beautiful emerald green to Caribbean blue as the depth went from 20’ to 300’ in a very short distance. I caught a Blue fish right away, but didn’t get any more bites. We didn’t fish long as the dinghy (which we didn’t need to bring) was a hindrance.

Once back at Marathon and after docking, Karen began to clean the boat while I took a shower. While putting the hose away, she noticed an aquatic visitor had come up and started drinking water from a leak in our hose.

manatee drinking fresh water from hose
manatee drinking fresh water from hose

manty2

Karen began knocking on the boat and calling for me to come see our first close up view of a manatee. It stayed for quite a while and let Karen drizzle water into its mouth while it would spin slowly in what we took for appreciation. It then swam slowly away and we retired to the boat, ending another perfect day in paradise.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

We have been docked at Marathon Marina for one week now.  I don’t know where the time has gone.  People down here warn of the ‘keys disease’; they also remind the non-locals that Fla Keys can be translated into ‘flakeys’, a term given to people who come here looking to start a new life, then fizzle out and become lazy.  I don’t think they are talking about us – yet.

After taking 3 weeks to get to Marathon, we thought and felt that we deserved a vacation.  So for 7 days, we have slept late, done absolutely no work, and piddled away 168 hours.  Actually, that’s not absolutely true.  We spent one whole day just cleaning up the boat, inside and out, from the trip getting here.  It’s amazing how fast things can get out of hand in a small space.  We try to put everything back exactly where it belongs, but sometimes that didn’t happen.  When you live in a small space, you have to make every inch of available space count.  EVERYTHING HAS ITS OWN SPOT.   I call this BBB, Best Boat Behavior.  Sometimes, even I don’t follow my own rule, then I have to take time to re-organize again.

Flip and I have also started playing music again.  Everyday, we play. It’s like riding a bike, you don’t really forget how to do it.  But you DO have to re-learn the words, chords, and licks. You also have to get back in shape.  Really, you have to build up your finger tips, in the case of guitar, anyway.  The first day we played, we could only play about an hour before we couldn’t feel our fingertips anymore.

We also took a day to explore the waters around Marathon, by way of dinghy.  We found that we can get to our ‘local’ beach, Sombrero Beach this way, within minutes!

Sombrero Beach
Sombrero Beach

This week, I have learned how to make lanyards.  There are many different variations, but on a sailboat, the ones I made so far are our favorite.  We use these to pull open various hardware, such as pelican hooks on our gates at our life lines.  I also made a safety lanyard for Flip for our dinghy.

Top - Pelican Hook Pulls Bottom - Safety Lanyard
Top – Pelican Hook Pulls
Bottom – Safety Lanyard
Pelican hook with handmade lanyard
Pelican hook with handmade lanyard

Another day, Flip and I polished our resumes and sent a few out.  I guess we like it here so much, that we will plan on getting jobs and staying at least 6 months.  After talking to his top choice employer, it’s looking like Flip may work as a sub-contractor for them, rather than an employee.  With that, there is a lot of paperwork to become established and legal.  Florida apparently has a lot of rules for people that want to start a new life here.  For instance, within 10 days of bringing our cars here, we have to register them and pay a fee of over $225 EACH.  We also have to get new driver’s licenses.  Flip is also working out the logistics of getting us to Miami and flying back to Norfolk.  We left our vehicles with our good friends, Brent and Liz.  We plan on visiting in Virginia Beach then heading to Richmond, then to Cary.  We will then drive both vehicles down to Marathon where we will no longer be transients.

Lazy Days Bar and Restaurant
Lazy Days Bar and Restaurant
View of the marina pool from Lazy Days Restaurant, also within the marina
View of the marina pool from Lazy Days Restaurant, also within the marina

Within the marina, we have a top-rated restaurant and bar, a small fitness room, a heated AND cooled swimming pool, a ‘captain’s lounge’, a laundromat, several tiki huts with comfy outdoor furniture, and a small store offering beer, ice cream and a few other essentials.  The bathrooms/showers here are top notch.  The captain’s lounge is simply an air-conditioned cozy room with a big screen TV, plenty of couch space, a game table, and a small kitchen.  There is also a bath which rivals my master bath at the house.  Any one who  stays at the marina is welcome in the captain’s lounge.  Earlier this week, I found one of the ladies from my dock lying on the couch.  She had become sea sick during an afternoon windy period.  The restaurant has happy hour every day from 3 – 6, offering $4 appetizers and half price drinks.  One afternoon, Flip and I tried conch. It was served to us prepared with a very light crunchy breading outside, with a creamy lime sauce poured over it along with fresh chopped tomatoes and green onions.  The inside of the ‘cake’ was similar to a crab cake.  We both enjoyed it immensely!