Monday, March 10, 2008

Key Largo

When I last posted, we were anchored at Elliot Key, enjoying a quiet evening and beautiful weather.

After 12 days at anchor, I needed a "marina fix," so we stopped in at Blank Point Harbor Marina, across Biscayne Bay from Elliot Key. As if on cue, the head (toilet) stopped working.

To spare you the details, we found a mechanic the next day who repaired the head in about two hours. We haven't gotten the bill yet, but whatever he charges, it was worth it. Nothing dulls the spirit like a non-working head.

Black Point Marina has a great restaurant overlooking the water and live music on the weekends. It is apparently "the place to be" in Cutler Ridge, Florida, and we enjoyed wonderful food and music.

We left the marina mid-week and decided to explore Boca Chita Key, a few miles to the north. Originally purchased in the 1930's by Mark Honeywell of Honeywell Computers and other early high-tech products, he sold it after his wife died on the island from a fall. Ownership passed through other families until the U.S. government bought it in 1985 and made it part of the Biscayne Bay National Park.

Boca Chita Key is enchanting, with a small, protected harbor and a seawall where you can dock your boat. It has a beautiful beach on the Atlantic side, picnic tables, grills and campgrounds. On the down side, it has hordes of mosquitos and no-see-ums, so much so that we quickly re-named it "Bugga Chita Key." We spent one night there and moved on early the next day.

We motored north again back to No Name Harbor, where we met up Saturday morning with my brother, Allen, his wife, Dorie, his daughter Melissa and her fiancee, Greg. They had driven down two hours from Palm Beach Gardens, Allen and Dorie's winter home. Melissa and Greg were visiting from Washington, D.C., where Melissa is an attorney with British Petroleum and Greg is a staff attorney for Verizon.

We had a wonderful visit, which included a birthday lunch for me at a great Cuban restaurant in Miami and a trip to Home Depot for needed supplies, a treat for us boating people without cars.

After the family left to head North, Phil and I stayed at No Name Harbor on Saturday and Sunday nights, enjoying a pitch-in Sunday with the other cruisers anchored in the harbor.

This morning (Monday), we began our Keys exploration in earnest. About 9:30 we headed south motor-sailing (using both sails and motors) at nearly seven knots the entire day. By 4:30, we had covered 44 nautical miles and are anchored in Tarpon Basin, about the middle of Key Largo.

To give you some perspective, it's another 20 miles to Islamarada, then another 35 miles more to Marathon Key, then 48 miles more to Key West. That sounds do-able to us.

We are taking the "inside route" to Key West so far, which is possible because our boat has a draft of only 2.8 ft. The inside route is fairly shallow, and because we are a catamaran and don't need deep water, we can go places that monohulls can't go.

The alternate route around the Keys is the Hawk Channel, which is on the Atlantic side of the Keys, a deep-water channel between the reef and the shore. We may take that route on the way back, just for something different.

Our son, Matt, and his family are planning a spring break trip to Naples, on the West Coast. If we get our courage up, we might continue on up the West coast of Florida and visit them in Naples.

Two new things we have learned:

1) If an engine starts, but dies when you put it in gear, look over the side and see if you forgot to secure your dock line and it's wrapped around the prop.

2) If you start the engines but the boat won't move, and it's low tide, you may be aground, and you won't get to take your brother and his family on a cruise around the bay. There's nothing to do but wait until the tide comes back in.

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