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Keys Disease In Full Swing For Crew Of Kismet

Keys Disease in Full Swing for Crew of Kismet

Suffering from Incurable Keys Disease! When trailering our boat to the Keys, we had the added benefit of having our truck nearby, making it easier to stay a distance from downtown Key West. As we've mentioned many times before, our favorite spot is Key West Harbour Marina, on Stock Island. The best of both worlds when visiting Key West. Keys Disease is kind of like a virus that once caught stays in your system forever. It shows up like clockwork as soon as we hit the string of islands south of Florida.         Taking the Conch Tour Train was a new experience for us. Although we have extensively walked the streets of Key West, we learned a lot about the history and downtown area during the tour.        Happy hour in Key West is one of our favorite things and NO, we did not visit the upper floor of the Garden of Eden.     Key West is…

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Key West Harbour Marina – Stock Island

Key West Harbour Marina – Stock Island

Staying at Key West Harbour Marina affords us the best of both worlds. We've stayed at Stock Island several times before. We keep going back to Key West Harbour Marina because it just makes sense. We usually stay a month in the Key West area and the downtown marinas are too expensive to stay long. Not sure we'd appreciate the crazy activity of downtown Key West for more than a few days. Staying at Key West Harbour Marina affords us the best of both worlds. Because we trailer our boat to Florida, we have transportation while in the lower Keys. So, we enjoy the laid-back island lifestyle on beautiful Stock Island knowing we can drive the short distance into Key West any time we want to experience the attractions of that busy little tourist town. But first, we have to leave Marathon. We'll anchor out a few nights on our way to Stock Island. So, we went from the Florida Bay side of the Keys,…

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Blackfin Resort Marina – A Diamond In The Rough

Blackfin Resort Marina – A Diamond in the Rough

We left our anchorage in Curry Hammock to face a fairly windy day cruising to Blackfin Resort Marina in Marathon. This is our first stay at Blackfin Resort Marina. We've walked through the marina when we were visiting the Keys before, because we are always on the lookout for places to stay. It helps with future trip planning. Blackfin is a fairly rustic and laid back establishment, but it's big on delivering an authentic Keys experience. We had all the amenities we needed for our month-long stay. The marina is within walking distance of the local shopping area. We enjoyed a heated swimming pool, clean shower rooms, nice docks and a beautiful outdoor boater's lounge. We could relax there at the end of the day to watch the setting sun while mingling with the other boaters at the marina. The staff was friendly and very accommodating. We just felt like we were at home.       Jim  change the zincs today, so he had to go…

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Doing Research On Two Anchorages Between Key Largo And Marathon

Doing Research On Two Anchorages Between Key Largo and Marathon

Research and Local Knowledge As with most things in life, we find it comforting to return to places we've been before. Revisiting takes a lot of the guesswork out of the trip planning process. This is especially true when traveling by boat. With that said, it can also be exciting, rewarding in fact, to try something new. I do a lot of research before we venture out on the road to launch the boat in new territory. Before heading out I check several mapping resources, such ass Active Captain and Salty Southeast Cruisers' Net. I then review the charting resources. These include Navionics and my Garmin GPS. My preferred method of research is by contacting locals in the area where we plan to cruise. We do this either ahead of time or as we are cruising. This most valuable resource is called “Local Knowledge.” While we docked in Key Largo, I checked with several boaters native to the area. One was good friend and Eco Tour…

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Keys Eco-Tours?  See Captain Sterling – John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park

Keys Eco-Tours? See Captain Sterling – John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park

Looking for Keys Eco-Tours? See Captain Sterling at Everglades Eco-Tours Our first stop in the Keys this year was John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, time for another Keys Eco-Tours. This was a new stop for us and we're glad we had the opportunity to check it out. We left Boca Chita while it was still quite windy, but manageable. When we got to where the waterway narrowed down a bit, we passed under the Jew Fish Creek Inlet and Bridge, in Key Largo, Florida, and passed the Anchorage Resort and Marina. We've stayed there in 2010 when we helped the new owner of our Fathom 40 take the boat north from Key West to Palm Coast. Shortly after we emerged from Jew Fish Creek into Blackwater Sound we headed toward the man-made cut, Marvin D Adams Waterway (mile-market, 103.6), it would take us into Largo Sound and shortly after our destination, John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. The "Cut," created in the late…

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Safe Harbor Before The Start Of The Keys

Safe Harbor Before the Start of the Keys

Boca Chita Key, an Island Paradise! Kismet is on the wall at Boca Chita Key. Twelve miles south of Key Biscayne sits this beautiful bahamian type island. It is part of Biscayne National Park and consists of 32 acres of land, beach and harbor. It includes a beautiful 65-ft. ornamental lighthouse which sports an observation deck overlooking the beautiful harbor, nearby islands, Key Biscayne Bay, ocean, Miami and Key Biscayne Island. Down below the lighthouse sits an old canon salvaged off a nearby shipwreck. There is a nice hiking trail and picnic facilities with several grills. There is a little campground, an open-air pavilion and saltwater restroom facilities. This island always makes us think we are in the Bahamas. We left Key Biscayne Key and Miami in our wake as we headed south to one of our favorite Florida islands, just north of Elliot Key and the start of the Florida Keys. Over the years we have learned to time our arrival to Boca Chita Key to fall during a weekday. Since boaters from Miami…

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Rim Route To South Bay Cove On Lake Okeechobee, Florida

Rim Route to South Bay Cove on Lake Okeechobee, Florida

"Big Water" – Lake Okeechobee and the Rim Route From our one-night stop in LaBelle, we proceeded toward Lake Okeechobee (or in Seminole Indian language, Big Water), we'll be taking the rim route around the lake instead of going straight across this time. The Okeechobee Waterway, which includes the Caloosahatchee River and the St. Lucie River, boasts a 134.3 nautical miles from west to east and is the 2nd largest fresh water lake in the United States. You can transit the lake by going straight across or by the more protected, though shallower, rim route that follows the southern edge of the lake. We've never done this path before and are looking forward to seeing something new. We'll stop one night to anchor at South Bay Cove, a spot Jim found on Active Captain and heard other boaters talk about. It is located at the southern end of the lake. It was a very thickly overcast day so we did not get very good…

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Rendezvouing With Sea Gator In Marathon

Rendezvouing with Sea Gator in Marathon

  When I was in the planning stages of putting together our book, Women On Board Cruising, an acquaintance introduced me via email to Pat Erhman, a long-distance cruiser, along with her husband Rick on their boat, Sea Gator. I was so happy for the introduction because Pat and I corresponded quite a bit over the course of creating the book and I hoped some day our paths would cross on the water. Today it finally came to be. A friend, another contributor to the book, Ellen, ran into Pat in Marathon earlier in the season and told her we were also in the Keys and maybe heading back to Marathon on our way back home. So, after several emails back and forth we determined that the stars were aligning and the crew of Kismet would finally get to meet the crew of Sea Gator. Lots of interesting boats in Boot Key Harbor, mostly sailboats. This is how we get…

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The Route Less Taken – Key West To Marathon

The Route Less Taken – Key West to Marathon

When leaving Key West by water, heading east to Marathon, there are two Intracoastal Waterways (ICW) route choices. There is the un-obstructed, direct route of Hawk Channel which runs parallel to the Keys and cuts into Florida Bay at Marathon. Hawk Channel is somewhat protected from the coral reefs that separate it from the Atlantic Ocean; this is the most popular route because you don't need to worry about dodging shallow water. We've taken Hawk Channel several times but have never taken the route less traveled, the Florida Bay ICW. One of the reasons the route north of the Keys to Marathon is not preferred is because of the shallower water depths. With a 2.5-foot draft on our Ranger Tug, we felt we'd have plenty of water below us. Besides we were up for a new adventure, we wanted to take a route we'd never done before. Our objective was to slowly cruise the 30 miles to Marathon by anchoring…

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Goodbye Stock Island – Florida Keys

Goodbye Stock Island – Florida Keys

Time to move on, but we were a little sad to leave Key West Harbour and Stock Island. It was a great month, we met a lot of neat people, met up with some friends we hadn't seen in awhile and had good weather. What more could anyone ask for?

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Last Walk Around – Key West, Florida

Last Walk Around – Key West, Florida

One last walk around Key West before we start heading north up the Keys, through Florida and finally home to Michigan. Key West is a visual delight... We met Anne and Hank, Queen Anne's Revenge, on our second Great Loop boat trip. We were happy to see them again and share lunch at Salute's, on the beach.

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Stock Island Stay

Stock Island Stay

We can't say enough good things about Key West Harbour, on Stock Island. Our second stay here, for the month of March, was ideal. Great slip right by the tiki hut on the outer rim, open air showers under the hut and a spot to enjoy happy hour under the other hut. Life is good. We were happy to meet up with the Brenda and Vern, on Trouble II, they were our neighbors at Key West Harbour the winter of 2010.

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Mission Foiled – Uninhabited Marquesas Keys – Islands West Of Key West

Mission Foiled – Uninhabited Marquesas Keys – Islands West of Key West

Just for you Rob! We left Key West Harbour early in the morning – with calmer waters and clear skies forecasted, we thought it was time for a little excursion to the Marquesas Keys. The Marquesas sit 18 nautical miles west of Key West and are uninhabited. Our thoughts were that it would be fun to anchor out and enjoy the serenity of these isolated Keys. Although It was a pleasant enough cruise out, shortly after we had cruised halfway around the island and dropped anchor the wind kicked up. There really wasn't an option to move to the lee side of the island because the water depth around the island is VERY shallow for a long ways out, so even the lee side would have been a problem because we'd have to anchor far away from the shore where the wind had plenty of access to us. With no protection available to keep from rocking and rolling, we had to abort…

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Better Than Sex?

Better Than Sex?

On this particular day we had just consumed a huge lunch at our favorite Cuban restaurant, El Caney on Stock Island. Later that afternoon, we drove to downtown Key West to take a long walk and watch the sunset. We really weren't hungry for a dinner, but we thought maybe we'd just get dessert somewhere. That was when we remembered several people telling us about a dessert restaurant named Better Than Sex, they only offer dessert on their menu. "Why not," we said, "how about we just have dessert for dinner?" Music to the ears of our server. As you can see from the photo (below-left) we were not disappointed. Jim ordered creme brûlée and I got the signature dish, "Better than Sex." They assured us both selections would live up to our expectations. Jim, of course, wanted to know if there was a money back guarantee if the dessert did not live up to the name of the establishment. We liked the…

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Bringing Home The Shrimp – Stock Island, Florida

Bringing Home the Shrimp – Stock Island, Florida

Not only did the fishermen "bring home the shrimp," but we also brought it home, to the boat that is. Freshly caught shrimp for dinner tonight, what could be nicer? Fresh seafood all within a mile of the marina. Fishbusterz usually has a full array of fish and shellfish available. The Lobster Company, closer to the marina, has more including stone crab claws, a new favorite of ours. This is just one of many reasons we love to stay on Stock Island. The shrimp boats raft off each other in the basin behind Fishbusterz. We originally thought there were docks out there for the boats to tie up to but one day we visited when all the boats were out for the day getting their catch and we realized there are very few docks but that they all raft off of each other when they come back to port. The Safe Harbor Marina next to Fishbusterz and the Hogfish Restaurant…

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The Charlevoix Gang Converges On Key West

The Charlevoix Gang Converges on Key West

We're all dock mates from our long-time homeport of Charlevoix, Michigan (the only people missing is our dear harbormaster, Hal and his wife Mary Ann). Although we have not been back to Charlevoix by boat for many years the friendships have endured. Our first get-together this winter was hosted by Jean and Gary on the porch of their downtown Key West rental. Porch dining was a first for us and somewhat of a tradition in this eclectic little town where many houses feature a big front porch. Jean and Gary cooked us an amazing dinner with crab cakes and salad along with marinated and grilled seafood and sausage kabobs. The next get-together was on Stock Island. A little boat tour of the surrounding waters on the new Kismet followed by drinks and snacks under the tiki hut at the marina. We ended the day with dinner at Hogfish before we took everyone back to Key West. During a little after…

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A Favorite Haunt – Stock Island Lobster Co.

A Favorite Haunt – Stock Island Lobster Co.

One of our favorite haunts this winter was the Stock Island Lobster Co., just a short walk from our marina. Unfortunately the whole month of March was very windy and the boats did not get out to get their catch like they, and we, would have liked. Some days they had nothing to sell and others they could only sell a limited amount to us, but we did get some lobster a couple of times and some snow crab claws another.

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Tropical, Eccentric Key West

Tropical, Eccentric Key West

Not only does it boast a colorful, tropical splendor but Key West is a little unconventional with its kooky signs and unusual, creatively painted or put together, bikes and vehicles. Here is something new we saw in Key West this year. Not sure what to call it but doesn't it look like fun? A solar bike with storage to boot. Who would have thought?  Lots of sunshine in the Keys, so why not? One of our favorite signs in Key West, Love Lane. The crew on Illusions (Ranger Tug R27), Mike and Jess arrived in Key West with their friends, Ginny and Dave. Of course this called for a night on the town, eating, walking and shopping. It's rare to walk the docks of Key West at the end of the day and not see fish being cleaned and gutted. The pelicans are always in attendance to snack on the discarded scraps.

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Dock Fever? – Let’s Visit The Florida “Flats”

Dock Fever? – Let’s Visit the Florida “Flats”

Ever since we arrived for our month-long stay, it's been very windy and this has inhibited our plans to explore the surrounding area of Key West by boat; we were getting itchy to push away from the dock. We're usually not interested in taking random boat rides, so when we do sever the dock lines and head out, we like to have a purpose and a plan. Key West, being the southern most spot in the U.S., is somewhat at the end of the road and although the cruising options for a day out on the water are limited, the choices are unique. The Dry Tortugas, Marquesas Keys and the flats, in the Lakes Passage, all sit west of Key West and it was the grassy flats we chose for a day cruise. We left Key West behind us (above) as we approached the shallow waters of the flats (below). It's so shallow in the flats, it was easy to see…

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Unloading Shrimp

Unloading Shrimp

During our walk to the fish market ,on Stock Island this morning, we watched a shrimp boat unloading its fresh catch. From the looks of it they made a good haul.

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Mother Nature’s Tropical Artwork

Mother Nature’s Tropical Artwork

Our first walk in Key West led us to find these beautiful tropical flowers (they had fallen below the tree just as you see them here). Apparently they are from a Pink Bombax, Shaving-Brush Tree, this deciduous tree is native to tropical Mexico. The tree is mostly leafless this time of year, better to see these pink beauties. They start as an brown/yellow banana shaped bud (below-left) which peels down to reveal the pink "shaving brush" flower within. Just one small reason why we love tropical Key West.  

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United States’ Most Southern Destination, Key West, Florida

United States’ Most Southern Destination, Key West, Florida

After three grueling days camping out on Kismet in the boat yard, putting bottom pain on, we arrived at our most southern destination for our winter 2012 boating season, Key West – Stock Island actually, one island up from Key West. We'll be docked for a month at Key West Harbour. Stock Island is close enough to Key West to have fun in the popular tourist town when desired and far enough away to enjoy a relaxed marina setting with beach and pool amenities. This year we procured a slip in the outer basin which is lined with mangroves. We are nestled into our big slip, with bath house and boater's "tiki hut" lounge nearby, we are happy captain and crew during our stay at Key West Harbour.

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Boat Yard Blues – Part Two

Boat Yard Blues – Part Two

I am truly in the swing of things on day two in the boat yard. The good news is the On & Off product helped de-wax the hull, one of the steps needed to properly prepare the hull for bottom paint. Next, and it was probably overkill, I applied acetone to the hull to assure that all wax, from when the hull came out of the mold, was completely gone. After a good washing I taped the hull off an inch below the boot stripe then applied a very light 220 grit scuffing followed by a final washing in preparation for the painting, which I feel is the easiest part. Bottom paints are like opinions; there is plenty of each. There are several brands we could have chosen but in the end I decided on Pettit Vivid for the bottom paint and their corresponding Pettit Skip Sand Primer. The primer is described as a "pre-treatment primer designed to adhere tenaciously…

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Mah Jongg Crazy

Mah Jongg Crazy

After the AGLCA Sunset Celebration came to a close, Cheryll (above-left) and Jess (above-right) and I decided we still had plenty of evening left to play a few games of Mah Jongg in the boater's lounge while the guys watched TV. I always carry a miniature game on board in hopes of bumping into someone who'd like to play, or learn to play. It's a crazy game with lots of weird procedures and rules but once you get the hang of it,it's a fun game to play. I had taught Jess to play during the Ranger Tug Southern Rendezvous in Fort Myers Beach. Tonight we taught Cheryll to play. They're both fast learners. It was a crazy night of Mah Jongg, we played until well after the guys retired and we each won at least one game. Mah Jongg  is a fascinating rummy-like game played with tiles rather than cards. The game originated in China, dating back to the time…

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