After 15 years, we said goodbye to our sweet girl, Drift Away. She was a 1995 Bayliner 2655, we put over 500 hours on her engine….and replaced it. She took us on 3 ICW trips, served as an OSHA Safety Boat for post Hurricane Katrina bridge inspections in New Orleans, was our “getaway car” after our wedding , covered over 1500 miles on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway (with absolutely zero mechanical problems), ran out of gas exactly once (traded a case of beer for a tow), and saw two young best friends become lovers, spouses, and parents.
We were sad to see her go but in a nice unexpected turn of events, some friends of ours bought her. She now lives only 3 slips away at our marina!
Our new boat is a Regal Commodore 3560 from Missouri and we are just THRILLED with her. Her twin Volva Penta 8.1 engines purred as we hit 45mph on the lake last weekend. We cant wait for all the new adventures she will take us on!
With almost no wind in the forecast for today, we decided we had to finally leave Key West. Since we had stayed longer than expected, we prepared for the 84 mile journey to Islamorada and another spot we had been excited about, Postcard Inn at Holiday Isle. I had originally heard of this spot because we also loved PCI in St. Pete Beach, Florida. The PCI in Islamorada has a pool, beach, marina, tiki bar and raw bar. It sounded idyllic. Things got a bit bumpy and windy while underway but the real problems started when we discovered our gas cap was off and dangling along the side of the boat. With all the waves and bumps we didn’t have a clue how much fuel we had lost. With some quick calculations and a few choice words we decided we could make it all the way to PCI. We went outside via Hawks channel until Marathon and then came back inside at 7 mile bridge. The water inside was a bit calmer and a more enjoyable ride. The very last mile or so was a very narrow but pretty channel with mangroves on each side. Normally, we would slow down in this area (although it was safe to stay at speed) but since we were low on fuel we zigzagged quickly through the green and red channel markers. We went under a bridge and took a sharp left and landed right on the fuel dock at PCI. Sheww! We made it! We were also delighted to have help at our slip while maneuvering away from all the massive sportfishing boats around us.
After another successful docking, we rewarded ourselves with a nice dip in the lovely pool. The pool featured a swim up bar with drinks and quite delicious food. As dinner approached, we found ourselves across the parking lot at Ciao Hound, an Italian restaurant on the property. I haven’t been to Italy (yet!) but this place felt authentic. The bread was amazing and the food even better. We headed back to the boat for a gorgeous sunset and a nice fire. This marina was definitely spoiling us!
We woke up and had a nice leisurely breakfast on board and enjoyed the morning rocking at the dock. We went for our daily oysters at Raw Bar and snack at Schooners and then headed to Simonton Street beach. The wind had died down a bit and it was much more enjoyable to hang out in the sand. Simonton Street also has a beach shack called Lagerheads that has sandwiches and drinks. The owner is a car lover and we unfortunately witnessed someone hitting his old VW Bug that had been painted with the Lagerheads logo. The streets are tight in Key West and this guy obviously had not mastered reversing with a boat and trailer.
We later strolled back to Lucy’s for happy hour (we have learned that restaurants with a child are more enjoyable if you go on offpeak times!) and then strolled to B.O.’s Fish Wagon for dinner. If you haven’t made it to BO’s it’s definitely worth a stop. The open air restaurant is more of an eclectic shack of whatever they could find to add to it. Its very islandy and we love it. The shrimp sandwich is amazing!
We got back just in time for some turtle races at Turtle Kraals (directly in front of our boat) Every few days they would race the turtles down their custom made turtle track. If your number Turtle won you got a key and a chance to open the treasure chest! Alas, it was not our lucky day for pirate booty.
Today offered more rain and more wind up to 30mph. No big deal…we weren’t planning to move anyway. We dodged the rain down to the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum to explore the story of him discovering the wreckage of the Atocha. While I would never be a good treasure hunter, I love watching shows about them, especially when gold is involved! The museum had tons of stories of Mr. Fisher’s adventures and loads of treasure to explore! We could have stayed all day but the crew (our daughter) grew restless quickly.
The rain stopped just as we were leaving the museum so we meandered thru the streets and shops until we landed back at Schooners Wharf. The guy playing music was AMAZING so we stayed a bit and of course had some mozzarella sticks. 🙂 We were close enough to the marina to start some laundry and go back to listening to the music.
After laundry, it was time for happy hour so we headed to Duval and Lucy’s Retired Surfer Bar. This quickly became one of our favorite spots as the prime seating is outside on a porch overlooking Duval. We then headed back to the boat and met, Captain, a sweet cat on the houseboat across from us. The rest of the night we relaxed, folded laundry and enjoyed the sunset. We also got to witness all the sunset cruise catamarans coming back into dock. There are SO many of them coming in and out but they are amazingly aware of where all the boats are and know exactly how to enter and exit the narrow entrance.
Monday morning we awoke up with a promise to have a better beach day then yesterday. With the weather still unpredictable, we opted instead to head over to Dante’s, a pool with a restaurant/bar and plenty of music. We knew it would get a little too wild for our wild child quickly so we showed up as soon as they opened. After swimming and having lunch, we decided our time was probably up.
We walked down to Simonton Street Beach, our favorite little beach in Key West, for a short swim and playing in the sand. The winds were still not in our favor so after a while we left and walked to the boardwalk that lines all the marinas. We paused at Galleon’s Pirate Cove bar and people/boat watched for a bit. Just as two footitis was setting in we decided it was time to leave. We strolled along the water’s edge to Raw Bar for dinner. I love this side of Key West.
We awoke Sunday with renewed energy and excited to not be moving for a few days. The weather continued to be an issue for boating so we weren’t sure how many days we would have to stay put (no complaints since we LOVE Key West). We decided to check out Fort Zachary Taylor beach, a spot we haven’t been able to make it to in previous trips. The state park has several nature/ hiking trails, a fort and our favorite, a beach. Beaches are harder to come by in Key West so we were very excited for this one. We packed up our chairs, beach towels and sunscreen and off we went. Once we got there, we were met with a rainstorm. We sat under our beach chairs for a while “waiting for the storm to pass” as most do in Florida. This one, unfortunately, had some staying power.
After sitting under our chairs for awhile, we joined the majority of the beach at the cafe/ restrooms and continued to wait out the storm. There were a few brave people out in the ocean and the rocky, coral beach despite the cold rain. We decided to pack up and head back to our boat. We enjoyed lunch at Turtle Kraals (outside because the sun came out as we left the beach) and did a few boat chores. We then headed back out for what became a daily trip to Raw Bar for oysters and then Schooners Wharf for music and mozzarella sticks.
There were St. Patty’s day celebrations everywhere we looked and Duval was absolutely packed. I covered our daughter’s eyes as we crossed Duval to head to Smokin’ Tuna for dinner. Smokin’ Tuna is an open air restaurant one block off of Duval with divine seafood and almost always music! It was a bit calmer and the perfect end of the day.
We left for Key West early with hopes of arriving before lunch. Even though the forecast was calling for 1-2 foot seas, we opted for Hawk Channel today as we had read the inside route is very shallow to Key West from Marathon. For the first ten miles, we encountered 2-4 foot seas but then it calmed down after that. It was with much excitement and anticipation, we rounded Fort Zachary Taylor State park and into Key West Harbor while admiring Mallory Square on our right. We had made it!! I cant tell you the excitement we felt knowing that we had made it to a place we love, a place we got engaged many years before, on our own boat!!
As we entered the harbor, we marveled at all the big yachts and catamarans that were docked. It was a very busy area but we had a nice face dock and no pilings to contend with. We were met by a very cheery dock master who commented “Finally someone who can throw a dock line” It was a huge compliment since we were (as usual) by far the smallest boat. It was the perfect pick me up after several days of frustrating docking. We quickly cleaned the boat and headed to my favorite Key West spot, Raw Bar. After some oysters and good conversation, we headed to Hogs Breath for music and dinner. It was a perfect Key West day!
We left Mangrove Marina a little sad the next morning but excited to keep continuing towards Key West. Even though there wasn’t a wind advisory, it was still a bumpy ride in the wide channels as we headed to our next stop, Marathon Marina. We stayed on the inside channel today and the Waterway Guide suggested not to go thru Knight Key, a shorter route, but instead pass Knight Key and go down to Moser Channel (and under 7 mile bridge) and back up to Marathon. While Knight Key is supposedly dicey, we wished we had tried it. As soon as we rounded the corner out of Moser Channel, we were met with four foot beams seas and the wind against the current. It was a MISERABLE extra hour to Marathon.
We landed in a nice easy slip with a long finger pier at Marathon Marina and were happy for an easy docking for a change. We got on our swimsuits and made a pit stop at Lazy Days for Happy Hour food and drinks. We ordered several of the $3 appetizers to share and enjoyed the view of boats coming in and out of the harbor. We then walked next door to the pool that was part of the marina and enjoyed the cool water.
After cleaning up, we walked around the corner to Castaways Waterfront Grille. They apparently had sushi and I was excited for some raw fish. While we didn’t get a “waterfront” (read:canal) seat we still had a great time and enjoyed the sushi! We also spotted a manatee enjoying some refreshing water from the rain spout. We then headed over to a place called Burdine’s. Its on the water and supposed to be a good time. They also had Key Lime Pie! Unfortunately, we were too late and they were closing for the evening. We headed home to sleep for our long adventure to Key West tomorrow!
We awoke to a small craft advisory with 20+ mph winds and reported seas of 4-6 feet waves in Hawk Channel. After yesterdays winds, we quickly made the decision to stay at Mangrove another day. We made our way down to Founders Park in Islamorada which has a beach, park and pool. We landed at the beach and although our daughter wanted to play on the playground more than swim, we managed to dip into the shallow beach often. We met up with some friends from home who were in Key Largo for the month and chatted with them a bit.
After we had enough sun, we went back to the marina to get some boat chores done, get cleaned up and were delighted to find that the food truck would be open that evening. While we waited for it to open, we chatted with our boat neighbors, Rick and Janet, who lived on their boat, “Timid Tuna.” Their was nothing timid about this custom built yacht that Rick and Janet had the pleasure of building from 1983-1985. They had lived on their precious boat since 1987 first in Marathon and then at Mangrove Marina since the 90’s. They were also faithfully growing avocado trees on their boat transom. They were my new favorite people and we enjoyed every minute of our conversation!
The food truck/bar, Fin and Juice, opened and we headed over to the most heavenly setting for a bite to eat. Their floors were sand, the ceiling palm trees and lights and the seats were rocking picnic tables. It was idealic. We settled on tuna tacos and a charcuterie board both of which tasted like they came from a 5 star restaurant not a food truck. I wish I knew more of the story of this bar but it is a MUST for anyone going thru the Keys. As we were limin, we noticed another patron with a Coral Bay, St. John shirt on and chatted with him and his friends for a bit. The love for St. John runs thru our veins and its an easy and favorite topic of conversation for us and usually anyone else who has been there. This guy runs charters all thru the Keys but remembered fondly his time in STJ as we chatted. It was the perfect end to a much needed relaxing day.
We awoke ready to leave and head towards Mangrove Marina in Tavernier and to finally be in the Florida Keys! It was still very windy and the waves were choppy. We had to leave the marina and find a close gas stop (which was another windy/concrete/choppy nightmare) and then down Biscayne Bay we went. Although the bay is very large and the waves were still choppy the ride was very comfortable. As the waterway got skinny again, we traversed Card Sound and thru Jewfish Creek in Key Largo. We passed Gilbert’s Resort just beyond Rte 1 and the Overseas Highway bridge. It looked REALLY fun with a beach, bar and lots of palm trees. They also had received alot of damage from the 2017 hurricane season and as of February 2019 didn’t have power yet. We crossed our fingers they would have power by the time we stopped there on our way back.
After this area, the water got noticeably prettier in color. It was beautiful hues of blue and green all around the boat. Pictures couldn’t quite capture how gorgeous this area was. In bright blue water, we passed thru several skinny mangrove lined cuts. These skinny parts of the ICW will always be my favorite as there is so much wildlife and vegetation to take in.
As we started our still windy approach to Mangrove Marina, we called and got instructions for docking and requested as much help as they could give us. The approach is shallow but we only needed 3ft. As we approached, we noticed there were more short finger piers and then pilings. This seems to be a common theme with Florida marinas and isn’t ideal docking for our particular boat. We attempted to find our slip and only found someone to help when we almost scratched a very expensive paint job of another boat with our bow when the wind again was too strong for our single engine. Come to find out it was the yacht broker at the marina and since he was pretty mad he managed to find us some help docking.
After we missed our slip twice, we settled on the adjacent gas dock and sorta hoped they would just let us stay there. After everyone finally figured out where they wanted us, we moved across the dock to another slip with the help of two dock hands, two other marina employees on a boat hook, a nice marina resident and our crew of one. We were in but we were frazzled. We got much needed showers and went to look for dinner. Since there weren’t many options within walking distance and the bar/food truck at the marina being closed, we settled on more boat food.
The marina has a great little pool which we enjoyed for a while and chatted with some of the marina residents. This marina also offers a variety of houseboats that you can rent and there were many people coming and going from the cute boats. Exhausted from the day we went to sleep early.