Drift Away II

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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!

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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!

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ICW Southbound – Key West Bight – Day 10

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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.

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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.

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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.

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ICW Southbound – Key West Bight – Day 9

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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.

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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.

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ICW Southbound – Key West Bight Marina – Day 8

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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.

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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.

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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.

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ICW Southbound – MM 1193 to MM 1243 – Day 7

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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!! 

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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!

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ICW Southbound – MM 1150 to MM 1193 – Day 6

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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.

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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. 

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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!

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ICW Southbound – Mangrove Marina – Day 5

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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.

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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!

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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.

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ICW Southbound – MM 1085 to MM 1150– Day 4

 

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.

ICW Southbound – MM 1009 to MM 1087 – Day 3

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At first light, we awoke at beautiful Loggerhead Marina and headed out for another long day of travel. We knew when we planned our trip that the first few days would be long, but we wanted to get to the Keys as soon as we could without missing any parts of the ICW. Our goal today is the beautiful Dinner Key/Coconut Grove area. Many of the marinas in this area were heavily damaged by Hurricane Irma in 2017 and either didn’t have any slips at all or had their liveaboard boats in the transient slips. Without a confirmed reservation and a setting sun, we stopped short in Miami.

With the winds picking up, I’m not sure why I thought a small marina on an island in the middle of Biscayne Bay would be a nice stop. It turned out to be one of our worst docking experiences to date. We approached the marina late in the day and noticed a nice rock jetty that we hoped would help with the wind. The marina had assigned us a spot and given us vague directions on where it was. Most marinas along the ICW (and everywhere else that we have been), use a letter and/or number combination to identify the slips.  Typically, the docks/piers will be identified with letters and the slips with numbers. If a marina has 5 piers/docks, they may be labeled A, B, C, D, E and then each slip on that dock/pier will be numbered. So D-25 would located on D Dock with a “25” clearly visible from the water.  We quickly learned that this marina was different.

There were no identifying marks visible from the water (We later found them on TOP of the dock which is not at all visible from the water). As winds began to gust to 30 knots, several approaches and attempts at more communication with dock hands and other marina staff, someone finally came out to help direct us. We finally found our slip, but getting into it was another story. This marina slip was solid concrete with a steel ladder sticking out to climb up from the boat. Pilings were placed approximately 35 ft. apart and there were no finger piers to assist with slipping in. As a 27ft boat, we could swing freely between the pilings making it easy to swing directly into neighboring boats. After several failed attempts, with no cooperation from the wind (and almost no help from the municipal dock hands), we nosed the boat into the slip. The dock hand held our bow and attempted to keep us off the concrete while I used all my strength and a boat hook to keep us off the neighboring sailboat. A line secured to our starboard piling finally put us at ease.

Y’all, we are lake boaters. Looping a piling on the way into the slip, so we don’t swing into a neighboring boat, and not having finger piers just isn’t what we know (But boy did we get a lesson quick). Oh did I mention we have a single engine? It was a nightmare but we somehow managed to get tied up. Rattled, I decided it was too windy and too risky to have our daughter climb out onto the bow and then climb up several steps to be able to get off the boat. So she and I stayed put until we happily left the next morning.

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Now that we’ve covered that, let’s go back to our day getting to this nightmare marina. There was SO much to see on our journey from Palm Beach Gardens to Miami. We also had a lot of slow/manatee zones and more amazing large homes. We saw over one-hundred 60ft+ sport fishing boats, a helicopter on a boat, and the busiest intersection of channels and inlets that we have ever encountered. You think Miami traffic is bad? It was nothing compared to the water around Port Everglades inlet. I could have had a conversation with the deckhand on the super yacht behind us because their bow hung over our boat so much. At one point I think we were six wide. It was INSANE but also really exciting. Thankfully this is a no wake zone and almost everyone obliged. It was slow getting through this area but LOTS to see.

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We then found ourselves in the Hollywood Beach area with more beachy homes and a Margaritaville Hotel, which had a fun ICW side bar/ restaurant. It looked a little precarious to dock and again being short on time, we pressed on. Finally, we entered Biscayne Bay and our approach to our nightmare docking and marina experience.

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ICW Southbound – MM 919 to MM 1009 – Day 2

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We left Melbourne as early as possible for another 90+ mile day with Palm Beach Gardens as our destination. We had learned some friends of ours were visiting nearby Vero Beach and it seemed like the perfect spot to stop for lunch. We ended up at the Riverside Cafe which had a nice sized dock for transients. The cafe was speckled with country music star Jake Owen paraphernalia and had a nice beachy vibe. I chose the Mahi sandwich which is apparently what Jake usually gets.

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I couldn’t quite figure out the connection with the cafe and Jake Owen but if you go on their website, they have a whole music video redone at the Riverside Cafe for his song “Barefoot Blue Jean Night.” In the song he does mention “Cruising to the Riverside…” A quick internet search indicates he is from Vero Beach and got started at the Riverside Cafe!

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We said goodbye to our friends and starting cruising further south towards Stuart and Hobe Sound and started seeing more and more palm trees. We cruised thru “The Crossroads” which was a unique four way intersection of the Indian River, St. Lucie Inlet, St. Lucie River/ Ocachobee Waterway connection and southbound ICW on the Indian River.  We had read in our guide books that this area could be HEAVY with commercial traffic and weekend boaters so we were glad to be passing thru on a Monday.

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Not long after, we entered Hobe Sound and cruised thru Peck Lake. As we passed, I noticed a very familiar sailing catamaran in the anchorage. As soon as I saw a dog get into the dinghy I knew it was our favorite sailing bloggers, Tula’s Endless Summer! Tula is a couple, Billy and Sierra, and their dog, Jetty who live on their boat and record their daily lives. They make a living from the stories they share with everyone through their videos. Check them out at: Tula’s Endless Summer

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They are reportedly headed to the Caribbean soon and I would have LOVED to chat with them about our experiences in the islands. However, we had an ambitious 90 mile journey and had already stopped for a long lunch. We had to keep moving. We finally made it to Loggerhead Marina in Palm Beach Gardens around dinnertime. We had a nice refreshing dip in the marina pool and then dinner on the boat. It appeared we were in the middle of a neighborhood and there were no restaurants within walking distance. The marina here is very pretty and well manicured with beautiful pink flowers dotting the edge of the docks.  We were exhausted from our long day as fell easily to sleep with the rocking of the boat. Tomorrow we cruise to Miami!

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