Sunday: Today we move and if the weather holds, tomorrow, we’ll be in the Florida Keys! First, we must cruise 43 miles today to our planned anchorage in Little Shark River. Its not a long day, so we plan for a 9:00am departure and after walking Frankie, I check the stateroom and see Tracy out of bed, all dressed, and making the bed! I guess she’s ready to leave. We adjust the lines, I walk the garbage up to the drop off area and get some complimentary ice to fill our cooler. Once I get back, we’re ready to go. The couple we met here yesterday, John and Penny aboard Scooter (not Loopers) said they were aiming for the same anchorage and they have already left since they are a slower trawler.
The tide is going out today, so Tracy points the bow into the outgoing current and in short order, Kailani is turned around ready for the cruise down the Baron River, past the Ten Thousand Islands and into the Gulf of Mexico where we will turn south and head to Ponce De Leon Bay and the mouth of Little Shark River. The Gulf again surprises us in a not good way and there are 3-4 footers today when the forecast had predicted 1-2 footers. The difference here is that they are coming out of the south so we get bow-pounded for a few hours. The south run is 30 miles and with about 12 miles to go, the Gulf starts laying down somewhat and the ride smooths out a bit. We are literally out of civilization with no cell service and very spotty VHF clarity, but there are still miles of crab pots to dodge for the entire 30 miles. We can’t imagine where the crab fishermen are based out of because we are not near any ports or harbors, except the one we just left in Everglades City.
By 2:30pm we are entering the mouth of the Little Shark River and we only have to go about 2 miles to get to Little Shark River Point where we will anchor, so soon enough we are spotting Scooter already set in the anchorage area and we cruise just past them and turn into the current to drop the anchor and set Kailani for the evening. There is a tide in this river so we know we will turn 180 degrees when the tide changes, so we allow for the swing room and set our anchor for 100 feet of chain in 12 feet of water. We are expecting a picturesque sunset and a beautiful night with the full moon, so as long as the sky is clear.
By the end of the day, there are two more boats in the anchorage as there was already a sailboat anchored before Scooter arrived and later, while Tracy is fishing off the back, a third trawler pulls in and sets his anchor for the evening.
So now back to Tracy, obviously fishing correct? Yup, with live shrimp still in her bait bucket left over from yesterday, she has great bait for catching anything feeling hungry in this river. While fishing out of the cockpit, she calls me down to look at something breaking the surface. I never get eyes on it, but Tracy does see it once more and confirms that it’s a large ray with at least a four foot wingspan! I wish I could have seen that as she said that it literally jumped out of the water. And I am not exaggerating! It jumped high enough for me to see the full length of it’s tail. -tc
Monday: Florida Keys, here we come! Our cruise today will take us from our anchorage here in Little Shark River to Faro Blanco Marina in Marathon.
We start early with our pre-departure duties, however, we can not re-verify the weather for the day because there is absolutely no signal here in the middle of no-man’s land! But looking out from Little Shark River Point into the open gulf, the seas look fine and so we proceed to raising the anchor. With Tracy on the bow and me at the helm, the anchor comes up smoothly and very clean. She did a great job of holding us in the changing tides of the river, and at straight up 8am we are cruising out of the river and into the Gulf. We set a course that takes us out 3 miles into slightly deeper water so we don’t have to maintain a constant check on the depth gauge. If we go out 2 miles before turning south, we’ll be cruising in mostly 7 feet of water which is plenty of water, but the depth alarm will be singing for the entire cruise, while another mile out we can cruise in a constant 12-13 feet and be assured that the bottom will not jump up and surprise us. So we head out three miles then turn south to a course of 165 degrees to head straight into the inlet for Faro Blanco Marina.
Again, we spend about two hours out of sight of any land, but today the vessel traffic seems a bit more crowded as we actually see four vessels also cruising south and two vessels cruising north, plus we finally see a crab pot vessel retrieving and re-setting traps. We’ve been wondering for a while why we always see thousands of crab pots, but rarely see any vessels working the traps. Today dispels the rumor that the pots just got there on their own (haha).
With about 11 miles to go and just before noontime, we can start to see the profile of islands ahead and sure enough by 1pm we are staring down the white lighthouse and the inlet for the Faro Blanco Marina with the sight of Seven Mile Bridge just off our starboard bow.
There’s a bit of a current upon entering the inlet, but we power thru and make it into the protected waters of the marina basin where we see a dockhand and Barry & Carol waiting to greet us at our slip. We haven’t seen them since Clearwater Beach, so it’s good to be back together.
Faro Blanco is a great spot to spend time in the keys and there are quite a few Loopers here, including some that come here to spend the entire winter docked right here. We also see that our other CT looper friends aboard Zoey’s Adventure are also here. We have danced around them ever since Killarney in Canada, but have not been docked at the same marina since. There’s also Mel and Anne aboard MorningStar II who are the self proclaimed harbor hosts here and they put together “docktails” every evening at 5pm. Tonight’s theme is ‘salads, without lettuce’ so at 5pm we meet and greet many boaters and feast on taco salads, fruit salads, bean salads, tuna salads, etc., you get the idea.
Back aboard Kailani, the air conditioning is on and the salon is very comfortable for the evening and we turn in at a decent hour and get ready to check out and enjoy the Florida Keys.
Tuesday: We’re not going anywhere today, but it is the last day for a while with projected calm seas. The forecasters are saying that the winds and seas will be above 20 mph with minimum 4 foot waves for the next few days, so we make arrangements with the Marins to stay at least thru the weekend. Also we are starting to finalize plans with Vic and Stephanie for them to come down to spend a week with us starting on April 7th. So we will be staying here in the keys for a while and plan to meet them on Key West when they arrive. So with our arrangements with Faro Blanco taken care of, we settle into our routine of R and R for a while.
The pool here is somewhat small, but very nice and it’s down three steps down from the indoor/outdoor Lighthouse Grill. So we have a lunch meal at the Grill, then spend the afternoon relaxing by the pool with looper friends.
For the evening, I spend the time socializing with Barry and Carol on their Sundeck while Tracy breaks out her fishing tackle as she has learned that its okay to fish from the fuel dock in the evening when there are no vessels docked there fueling up. Her catch tonight will be great enough to keep her motivated to stay right here and catch every fish in the harbor at least once! Ok, it’s time to admit what so many of you have probably surmised, Nick and I have very different hobbies. Nick loves, loves to chat and I adore fishing. Surprise!! -tc
Wednesday: Tonight’s docktails theme is ice cream as Mel had announced that he was making chocolate ice cream in their ice cream maker. So we showed up with a bowl of frozen grapes to compliment the ice cream and the docktails were especially delicious this evening. Right after docktails, we called for an Uber and went to Publix to re-stock our Galley.
Thursday: Winds are blowing strong today again as forecasted, but the temperature is still up there, so swimming in the pool is not curtailed and we again spend the afternoon, sunning, swimming and reading in loungers around the pool. Vessels tied along the entrance to the inlet are getting beat up pretty good. Wild Goose is near that area and although they are bouncing more than is usually comfortable, the Wild Goose is not dancing half as much as the boats closer to the open water area of the marina.
Friday: When I took my bicycle off the deck earlier in the week, I saw that my chain was rusted to the point of non-use, so today, I’m removing my chain and walking to the bike repair shop to get a replacement chain for my bike. I spend thirty minutes trying to get my rusted chain off so I can bring it with to get a proper match and after an unsuccessful attempt, I decide to simply walk the bike down to the repair shop and see if they can take it off for me. His bike chain had a section literally frozen in a right angle and could not move because of it -tc. So I push my bike the 2.3 miles down the road to the bike shop and the guy there couldn’t have been nicer. He insisted on removing and replacing my chain for me and refused to take any money for his labor. I even tried to give him a tip and he wouldn’t accept that. He just wanted me to be safe and have a working bike to enjoy. So with a new chain, I peddled the 2 plus miles back to the marina and in short order, I was back.
We spent a short afternoon at the pool as we needed to get prepared for our 4pm reservation at the Turtle Hospital for their 90 minute guided tour of the facility. So at 3:45 pm we were walking into the gift shop to purchase our tickets for the tour and at 4pm, Theresa called out to our group that the 4pm tour was starting and to follow her to the hospital entrance. From there, we got a guided tour of every one of the turtles housed here at the hospital from the two dozen that are categorized as not ever being able to be set back into the wild, to the 100 or so that are there for various surgical procedures and healing protocols before being returned to their original environment.
For instance, a turtle rescued from the waters of Sombrero Key would be returned to the exact spot in Sombrero Key after they were healed enough to be returned home. They always try to get the turtles back as near as possible to where they were rescued. So they have boats, ambulances, etc at their disposal for use when completing a rescue operation. This was amazing experience. This organization took of an old motel and using it’s swimming pool set up medical and rehab facilities for injured sea turtles. Some turtles had been injured by boats and some were babies who had gotten lost trying to find their way to the sea after hatching. However, the ones I found the most heartbreaking were the ones who were dying of starvation because they could not digest anything due to the fact they had so much plastic waste in their stomachs. Sea turtles love to munch on jellyfish and a floating plastic bag happens to look just like a jellyfish meal. -tc. After the tour was over, we asked Theresa for a card with the call in information for when boaters spot injured turtles. She gave us a refrigerator magnet card to keep aboard Kailani and hopefully, we will never have to use it, but if we ever see an injured turtle in the waters of the Florida Keys, we will now be able to call someone who is prepared and equipped to rescue that turtle.
(A little aside for out terrestrial turtle friends: If you see a turtle who has been hit by a car, even if the shell is cracked, the animal is likely still alive. Take the animal to a veterinarian or an animal shelter to be assessed and, if necessary, euthanized. Turtles have an extremely slow metabolism and can take days or weeks to die, even when they are severely injured. – tc)
On the way back to our marina, we went into 7 Mile Pizzeria where they make pizza and Cuban meals. We sat for a nice pizza, then walked back to Kailani for the evening. Again, I spent some time with Barry and Carol while Tracy tried for some more fish catches. We agreed with Barry and Carol that over the weekend, we’d both get our dinghies down and cruise over to Pigeon Key for an afternoon of snorkeling in the crystal clear waters of Pigeon Key below Seven Mile Bridge.
Saturday: A day of enjoying this lovely marina. Faro Blanco is a popular spot for loopers and some long term winter loopers, so it’s obvious that the feeling here is comfort and ease while enjoying the amenities. The wi-fi is strong, the pool is quaint but convenient, the dock facilities are modern and spectacular, ice, pump out and newspapers are all delivered to your slip daily if requested at no charge and there is a restaurant on site. Vessels of all sizes come and go in this marina, but Morning Star, Wild Goose, Zoey’s Adventure and Kailani are here throughout it all.