Swing Set

Dec 14, 201208:04 AM

Swing Set: Cruising Full Time

Everglades City To Marathon

Before we left Goodland, we needed to go to Stan's to see what the fuss was all about. We had a good enough time, but canned beer was $4. That's really all I need to say about it.

While in Goodland, I had put a feeler out on the AGLCA forum to ask if anyone had any ideas about where we could get a package delivered in Marathon. I had called the UPS store, and the owner said he would only hold a package for two days. We didn't have plans to stay at a marina, so calling one to accept a delivery was out. I got a call from a fellow "Looper" that has their boat in Marathon, and without giving us a lecture about where we should buy our zincs, or where we should stay, or how many spares we need to keep on board, Leslie and Flint Firestone on the MV Grace Full said they would gladly accept a package for us...just let them know when it would be coming. Great!

On Monday morning, I called BoatZincs.com and ordered four sets of pencil zincs for our Caterpillars and then sent the Firestones an email telling them when to expect them, but we still were not sure when we would arrive in Marathon, as the weather was a little iffy.

We had heard that Everglades City was a place to see, especially the Rod & Gun Club there, so even though Everglades City wasn't too far away, we set our sights on Indian Key and took a cruise down the Gulf and found a nice spot to set our hook. A sailboat that spent a night with us in Goodland had already arrived there, and we waved as we cruised past them. There was no Internet service or TV reception in our anchorage, which was among the mangroves between the Gulf of Mexico and Everglades City, so we cooked up a good dinner and played Scrabble.

About midnight, the rain started, and it rained. We found out later that Everglades City received over 4 inches of rain. For our part, we were bombarded by a hellacious lightening storm that had me just a little worried. It was a fitful night.  We got up in the morning and the ceiling in the salon was leaking badly. The repair I had done in Cape Coral was for nothing. I was troubled about it, but being troubled doesn't solve anything, so I pulled up the gasket material on the front part of our windshield and administered the same treatment I had given the port side wind screen. Now, we have to wait for the next rain to see how I did. Meanwhile, I have developed a plan B and have also bought the materials for it, just in case. Always good to have a plan B.

Our next plan was to go into Everglade City for lunch on Tuesday, but it was cloudy well into the afternoon, so we scratched that plan and decided to wait. Meanwhile, I checked the wind report on Windfinder.com and saw that the Gulf was going to be bumpy later in the week, so we decided we wouldn't wait until Wednesday to go to Everglades City, but leave our anchorage on Wednesday morning no matter what.

Another sailboat slipped in next to us in our large anchoring spot while we were reading our books just after noon on Tuesday. The weather turned, and by mid-afternoon we were sitting outside and decided to go to Everglades City for dinner that evening, maybe coming back to anchor where we were in the dark, or just stay at a dock somewhere.

Everglades City was about five miles inland through the Everglades National Park from where we were anchored. The route is circuitous and narrow, as you can see from the skinny channel in the picture above.

Here's the Rod & Gun Club as we approached it. Dusk was coming on, and it didn't help matters that no visitors, by boat or land, seemed to be at the place, making it seem desolate and uninviting. We checked the menu online, and finding out that the hamburgers were nearly $14 helped us decide to pass it up.

 

We cruised up the Barron River to a couple of other establishments, but the two we saw were either not open or had no customers. Rosie and I both figured we could have a better dinner on the boat, and could be back at our anchorage before dark, so we turned around and started planning our menu. We were happy to get back and drop the hook before darkness settled in. We found out later that our anchor neighbors were glad to see us return, too.

The next morning we made our decision to go. The forecast called for some winds to kick up later in the afternoon, so if we were going to make it with some comfort to our planned anchorage on the Little Shark River, 40 miles away, before the Gulf got too nasty, we had better get going pronto.

As we were pulling up the hook, our sailboat neighbors were gliding by and gave a friendly wave, so I hailed them on the radio and asked them where they were headed. They responded that they were headed to an anchorage in the Little Shark River, so I told them we were, too. I followed Alley Cat out to a route nearly on his tail and found out later that he was using Navionics on his iPad, too. I also found out later that they had done this trip over 17 times; their home base being in Grand Rivers, Kentucky, and I was impressed that on our first time out we were following the exact same course of some more experienced boaters.

Not being a "follower" though, we hailed them as we passed and said we'd see them in the Little Shark River later on that afternoon. Our ride was as bumpy as we'd had so far on our travels, and we also found out later that Alley Cat almost turned around. But, we found the markers to the Little Shark River and turned up into a swift current to make anchor.

The current was ripping through the narrow river, and the water was nasty. I figured it was good for fishing and threw out a line. No time later Alley Cat showed up, and once they got a hook set, brought their dinghy over to say hello. Gerald and Phyllis are experienced sailors and are headed to the Bahamas. We chatted until the "no see ums" attacked us all, and they bade us goodbye after saying they were headed to Marathon in the morning. We said we were, too, and we'd see them then.

Now, I want to say this; our anchorage in the Little Shark River was the worst, the worst I tells ya, anchorage we had encountered in nearly eight months of travel. The current was rushing past our hull, we had some marine life eating at stuff on our hull that sounded like an electrical fire was about to start and the tidal current shifted twice in the night, setting off our anchor alarm both times. Did I mention the bugs? We were attacked during a game of dominoes with the utmost severity. "No see ums" are not denied by any screen that man has invented. We had them flying all around us and they BITE. Oh, yeah, and the humidity was off the chart. I don't think they have a scale for the humidity we were experiencing. I had more sweat running out of my head than I ever had during wrestling practice way back in the stone age. But we survived.

We couldn't get out of there fast enough in the morning. The tide had dropped nearly 5 feet on the last turn, and we barely had enough water to get back out to the Gulf. Alley Cat was on its way, and sure enough, we had both plotted to same course. On our way out, we passed a motor vessel that had been towing a center console fishing boat and had sunk it. The bill was going to be over $6,000 to get the vessel back to civilization via Towboat US, and the vessel was sitting at anchor waiting for the rescue. Glad we weren't them.

The pond was flat as a pancake as we went, the only issue being millions of crab pot markers that we had to dodge. We saw what appeared to be a small boat way off on our starboard beam and went over to investigate. No telling when someone might be adrift at sea: I read Hemingway. No souls on board, so we hailed Alley Cat and told them not to bother when they went past.

The skies had darkened to the west, as a storm had settled over Key West and the Dry Tortugas. I kept an eye on our weather radar and monitored the VHF weather reports from NOAA radio and knew we would evade any storm, but I'll tell you, the clouds we could see off the starboard beam were ominous indeed.

It was pretty dreary as we approached the Seven Mile Bridge, but as we slipped beneath it, the sun came out and we steered our course back to Marathon and Boot Key Harbor.

Back in the late 1980s, we visited Boot Key Harbor in our 24-foot Formula, and we were only there for a few hours, so we wanted to spend a fair amount of time in Marathon this time around. In the picture, we are headed for the Marathon City Marina, where we decided to get a mooring ball after seeing the derelict vessels anchored in the "free spots" in the harbor.

 

There are well over 200 mooring balls in this harbor, which is well run by the Marathon City Marina. We called them and were directed into the office because we wanted to fill up our water tank before attaching Swing Set to one of the well maintained mooring balls. See Swing Set in the photo? They are about 65-percent full right now and expect to fill up by the New Year.

After getting settled, we jumped in the dinghy and went sightseeing a bit. The first thing we did was go over to the Sombrero Marina to check in with the Firestones on Grace Full. They were outside in the cockpit of their motor cruiser and were not hard to find. They were still on the lookout for our package and offered to drive us anywhere we needed to go in the next few days. We thanked them profusely and wondered how we ever thought we could be "independent" with all these good-hearted people that tend to surround us.

There are some beautiful vessels here in this harbor, and some very interesting ones, too. The houseboat in the picture has been modified to take advantage of all the room there may be available. I really want to see the inside of this thing before we leave. By the way, they are anchored on the "outside" of the mooring field. Pirates, no doubt.

We cruised by a couple of marinas and found out that most of them were using the tactic of not advertising a fuel price with tax included. According to what some long-time residents in the area told me, this is a new phenomenon that is taking hold. I don't like it. We saw $3.99 plus tax, not too bad, but why not just say what it is?

By the time we had returned to Swing Set, the sun was setting. We saw Alley Cat pull in and hook up to one of the the sturdy mooring balls, and we putted over to say hello again.

Later, Rosie roasted some delicious chicken wings in the convection oven, as the wind kicked up and I didn't think the grill would stay lit. Even though we have an awesome Internet signal, there is no TV, so it was an early night for us. But after a long travel day, sleep came easy and we had the confidence of being hooked to a secure anchor with no worries.

Before we went to bed, we formulated a rough plan for our Friday: We had some business to attend to via some phone calls and email, but first we were going to take a walk and get breakfast, walk to Home Depot and then do much needed laundry. Well, we woke up and let Holly do her business on the swim platform, then I went to give her an early morning scratch behind the ears while she smothered me in kisses, when she yelped when I touched her ears. Do you remember when I told the vet back in Cape Coral that Holly was shaking her head as thought she had some ear trouble, but after two ear inspections we were told that everything was fine? I checked Holly's ears and found odor in both ears and some drainage in her right ear. Ear infection.

I waited until 8 a.m., after searching for a vet on the Internet, and made a call. We were able to schedule an appointment right away and was also told the name of a "pet friendly" taxi service. Within the hour, we were in the waiting room of the Marathon Veterinary Hospital, a $5 cab ride away from the marina.

Dr. Molly ascertained Holly's ear infection, and we were given some medicine and instructions to bring her back in two weeks. We had been down this road before, but this time we had no reservations about staying in Marathon for two weeks and nursing our little pet back to health. This is a pretty good place to hang out.

We walked back to the City Marina, stopping first at Laura's Deli for breakfast, then to the Tru Value Hardware, then to the Home Depot. It had to be over 2 miles back to the marina, and Holly trotted alongside us like a trooper. I, however, got a blister and a backache.

We dropped Holly off at the boat, and we gathered up the laundry and headed back to the marina from our mooring. Once our wash was going, we went over to the big "clubhouse," where lots of other boaters were either using the free WiFi, reading books at the large library or watching TV at one of the three flatscreens on the premises (along with theatre style seating). It's casual but very nice.

Once back to the boat, we gave Holly her medicinal treatment that was required of us and she took it like a champ. Nothing better happen to this dog if we can help it.

The sun was setting over Boot Key Harbor as I came in to post this blog entry. The only thing dampening our spirits is the senseless shootings we heard about at the school in Conneticut. What is wrong with people? I usually end a blog with something funny, or a twist on something I said earlier, but tonight...I don't have it in me.

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