There were! Everywhere we went. More than we expected. Geckos here. Geckos there. Geckos extraordinaire! You’re right, not real geckos. I’ll admit I know not the native local habitat of geckos. The desert, I would imagine? This was—as I mentioned—a different breed of geckos. The cruising kind! Of all the fun, exciting things we were expecting to find in the Keys, a gecko overload was not one. But that’s the beauty of chance and fate. He stopped me by the pool in Stock Island with a sentiment I’ve heard often: “I know you from YouTube,” and there it happened. We had stumbled upon a pair of newbie cruisers who were about to purchase, splash and move onto their first liveaboard sailboat the next day and it just so happened they had bought the s/v Lazy Gecko. It’s amazing the happenstances that can happen out there and it is a constant reminder how truly small the cruising world is. Fun video for you all of the lazy splash below and a surprise visit from a rather famous cruising couple. But first, let’s get back to our Bahamas-Bound saga.
If you caught the video from our five-day voyage across the Gulf, you’ll know I got rather sick on that voyage. The sickest, I can easily say, I have been in my adult life. In true Annie-style, I spent the first few days of our trip trying to hide it from Phillip, telling him it was “just a sore throat,” “a little head cold, it’s almost gone.” But every time I swallowed, it felt like a fresh layer of skin was ripped off of my throat and swallowed down, leaving it raw and seething. Day three my voice began to go out so there was no more hiding it. I sounded like Patty and Zelma from the Simpsons. You remember this fun clip:
That’s one sexy rasp! Day four, my throat having been way more than “just sore” now for almost a full ninety-six hours, Phillip and I were both pretty sure I had strep throat. And every day began with a clattering cough trying to hack phlegm up and swallow it down. Appetizing, right? Just wait. Day seven, I woke in the middle of the night to the odd sensation of my eyes oozing. I would wipe some gook out of my tear ducts, but then I could feel it puff back up under my lids, ooze out of my duct, pool up on my nose and literally drip off the bridge of my nose onto my pillow. Nice. Several hours in I could mash it out of my eyes by running a thumb across my puffy lids and squeezing it out like a tube of toothpaste. Did I find it odd my eyes were oozing? Sure! Worrisome? Nah. All told, my sore throat had healed and my morning cough wasn’t too taxing. I figured whatever nasty shit was in my head was finally making its way out—albeit out my eyeballs—and I chalked the drainage up to be a good sign. Annie didn’t take a lot of selfies during that phase, but here was one pic Phillip snapped of me my first red-eye morning and you can see it’s not pretty.
Waiters and waitresses seemed to be afraid to serve me, or at least touch anything I had touched. Probably smart. While waking up several mornings in a row with lashes caked so heavily with snot clusters I had to manually pry my lids open was not fun, it did prove to be the last of my wicked strep-bronchinus-infection (we called it) and finally, somewhere around Day Ten, the Captain considered me fully-healed. Hooray!
Why am I sharing all of this with you? Because gross bodily stuff is really cool and interesting. At least I think so. But, really, I wanted to share all of this to pass along another important cruising lesson on first aid and medication: ANTIBIOTICS. When Phillip and I shove off on an extended cruise, we like to try to get a couple of rounds of preventative antibiotics prescribed so we can have them on-board in case one of us gets a wicked infection in a location where we are not close to a clinic … like 100 miles offshore in the Gulf. Did we have antibiotics aboard to treat Annie’s wicked illness? Yes. Points for us. But, was Annie too stubborn and stupid during the first four days of her illness to take them? Yes. Take back those points. I hate taking medication and I really thought it was just a pretty bad cold that was I was just about to overcome. So, I waited. I felt like taking antibiotics for “just a head cold” would be a waste. I usually have them prescribed for a UTI, which I am known to get every couple of years and I wanted to be sure I had them for that if one of those flared up while we were crossing. I would much rather have the gnarly shit I did than days and days of an untreated, raging UTI. Any ladies out there who know the feeling would probably totally agree. But when Phillip finally won out and I did start taking the antibiotics, I made another mistake. (Me? Stubborn? Noooo … ).
I am always a ball of sunshine!
You can probably guess what it was. Obviously, I’m trying to spare as much medication as possible and I still believed I could kick that thing on my own. So, I did what I often do when taking antibiotics: stop-mid dose and save the rest. That has often proved helpful. Here, it proved decidedly detrimental. I took the antibiotics for two days (the last two of our voyage), and I started to feel better, so I stopped. “Must save the rest now for a burning bladder, Annie,” I told myself. Then what happened? My eyes started oozing and my morning cough began and my illness lasted an extra five days. As Phillip later pointed out, if you stop an antibiotics regimen too early, the illness isn’t eliminated but, rather, educated on how to fight that particular antibiotic and it rears back twice as strong. Mine certainly did. So, two lessons for you here fellow cruisers (all lessons are free today): 1) carry preventative antibiotics aboard on long passages (as I mentioned, my ob/gyn nurse prescribes them for me for potential UTIs); and 2) take the whole damn dose. Don’t pull an Annie. Oozing eyes are not sexy.
But, back to our saga. We made it to Key West! Stock Island, rather, as this was the marina where we kept our boat most of the spring last year after returning from Cuba while we flew back and forth to work in Pensacola and play in Key West and we were very pleased with the security, cleanliness and efficiency of the marina at Stock Island Village. While it is a little pricey, it is also a fabulous facility, now with a completed hotel and nice pool, lounge and bar area available for free to all marina residents that we highly recommend.
We heart Stock Island!
And, we were so glad to see it had not been damaged or wiped out entirely by Irma! One of the really fun things we discovered about this marina, immediately after our return from Cuba, was that there is a little Cuban restaurant within walking distance that everyone claimed was “very authentic.” Having just sailed 90 miles from that wonderful island last December, with plenty of Cuban ropa vieja, picadillo and plantains still making their way through our tummies, we were highly skeptical, but definitely intrigued. And the little Cuban gal that runs that tight ship at Deluna’s did not disappoint. We got a mojo pork, with beans, rice and fried plantains that definitely held its own up against our high Cuban standards. And, when we came back to Stock Island this time, we were pleasantly surprised once again by this little Cuban cuisine gem.
“We’re having a little dock party tonight over at Deluna’s to announce our Christmas parade winners,” one of our new boat neighbors told us after he helped us dock and tie-up. “Ahh … cool. Maybe we’ll check it out,” Phillip and I said, not knowing whether we would in fact as we had been planning (and talking, and dreaming, and drooling) about it for days. Our first dinner ashore after crossing the Gulf we had both agreed would be Roostica, a fabulously-decadent little pizzeria bistro in Stock Island that makes delicious wood-fired thin-crust pizzas with names like The Diablo, The Island Pie, Truffle & Mushroom. Are you getting hungry yet? We were. Phillip and I—splayed out wet, exhausted and salty in our stinky foul weather gear sloshing around on passage—had been daydreaming about every oily, buttery, cheesy bite for four days. After our first hot shore shower, it was the first place we were planning to go. But then our dock neighbor said:
“They’re serving food and drinks, too. For free.”
Free?! That’s “cruiser” for “We’re going.” So we did.
And turns out by “food” they meant a tantalizing Cuban feast! Braised pork shoulder, black beans, succulent yellow rice, yucas (Cuban-style mashed potatoes), fresh Cuban bread (“Pre-buttered? Shit yeah,” Phillip said) and sweet, fried plantains. As much as you could eat, with a full wine glass coming every 15 minutes? All for free?! The decision was immediate and mutual. Sorry Roostica. We knew it would be there for us another evening. The Delunas folks had tip jars out and we gave generously then hopped in line to fill a heaping plate.
Then another …
And another. I’m not kidding.
Yes, thirds. We had thirds. I don’t think I’ve had thirds since Thanksgiving 2009. Holy smokes did we eat. But it was the perfect “Welcome back to Stock Island” event. And then we were just stumbling distance from our boat. Our bellies so full we could have rolled home. It was a great way to end our first night ashore.
The next day we were planning to walk or jog to Key West. The beach stretch on the south side of the island is really beautiful and we’ve enjoyed trekking from Stock Island to Key West on foot before.
We wanted to eat at one of our favorite places in Key West, a little French creperia that makes (don’t tell Yannick) better crepes than we had in France. Sorry, but it’s just true. Savory ones with mushrooms, chicken and beschamel sauce. Or sweet ones with dark chocolate and bananas foster. God, can you tell we’re foodies??
Another item on our agenda while in Key West was a reunion visit with an old friend from Pensacola. Our buddy, Russ, who worked at www.PerdidoSailor.com in the shipyard under Brandon for a while, had left Pensacola a few years back on his 1969 42’ Pearson to begin his own cruising adventure and he had landed, as many do, in Key West where we heard he was working on one of the charter schooners there. There are only like a thousand charter schooners in Key West.
But I must share one little secret Russ and I had. Back at the shipyard in Pensacola, Russ and I … we got really close. Physically. I mean it! We did. The two of us were cramped in the bilge of our Niagara 35 for a week together rebuilding our rotten stringers back in the winter of 2015. There’s not a lot of room in there and there was a lot of work to do. We had to get close. Roll that fabulous shipyard footage!
Two videos covering our rotten stringer repair for you here if you haven’t yet seen them: #52: Stumped by the Rotten Stringer Repair and #53: Rotten Stringers Repaired with Coosa Board and Fiberglass. Russ and I put a lot of work (and 185 pieces of glass) into that repair, making our baby stronger than ever. And, man did we rock those Tyvek suits! High fashion.
Ahhh … good times with Russ. It was very fun to have a reunion with him and hit up a few of the dive bars and delightfully tacky joints around Key West Harbor. Everyone loves Schooner’s Wharf! Say “Hey!” to Russ! Cheers!
Another item on our to-do list while we were in Key West was give our baby some TLC. Plaintiff’s Rest had worked quite hard chugging us across the Gulf, particularly in those gnarly conditions outside of Tampa, winds of 25 kts and 6-8 foot seas. She had done a fantastic job and definitely deserved some pampering. We gave her a good scrubdown right after we docked, which we usually do every time we make a passage and come into a marina.
Oh, and I did mention that bilge pump in BV1 … we discovered our forward bilge pump, a 500 gph Rule, had gone out. For whatever reason. Just quit working. We figured that probably contributed to the bilge water accumulation I mentioned in BV2. Ahhh … that explains a lot. Good thing we brought a spare! We popped the new one in, not too bad of a chore. Re-wired her and we were in business.
And, Stock Island has a West Marine there so we were able to get another “spare” to replace the now-used spare. Good to keep stock of your spares! We also changed out the oil in Westie. He’d run a good 38 hours bringing us across the Gulf and we usually change the oil every 50 hours, so we figured an early rotation wouldn’t hurt. Our previous owner made a few small modifications to the engine which make it rather easy to change the oil, and a much cleaner process. He rotated the oil filter from sitting horizontal that it now screws up and down vertically (containing the spill) and he put in an extended tube we connect to our manual pump catch-bin to pump the old oil out. All told, this chore only takes about thirty minutes and isn’t too bad at all. Westie certainly deserved it.
Chugging 38 hours across the Gulf had burned a little bit of oil:
And some coolant, which we topped off as well:
Using a mirror to check the gasket around the thermostat in our raw water system to make sure there wasn’t any green ooze around it signifying a leak. “Nope! All dry!” shouted Diesel Mechanic Annie.
And, Stock Island has a nice facility where you can dump your used oil, making this chore even easier. Always good to properly dispose of your nasty fluids.
We also noticed some additional rust that had creeped into our stainless since we last polished (in July) and, while we had time to do it in Pensacola, we literally didn’t have the right weather for it. The Spotless Stainless recommended the product not be used in temps less than 78 degrees. “We’ll do it when we get south then!” the Captain decided and it was done. We gave our gal a beautiful spit shine at the dock in Stock Island and she was glistening!
One thing we would have never expected to happen while we were there in Key West, though, was an unlikely run-in with a pack of geckos! Do geckos run in packs? Perhaps it was a herd, or a flock, but it was way more than we expected to find in one place. FOUR! And, I’m not talking about reptilian geckos. We’re talking about the human kind. Here’s how it went down.
Phillip and I had been lounging by the pool at the Stock Island Marina our second day there (Roostica night! Shit yeah!) and I had a guy stop me by the awesome little tiki bar they built there. “Hey, I know you from YouTube!” he said. I smiled and laughed, because I do get that quite often, and promptly apologized for my Patty-and-Zelma voice. While I did feel and sound like crap most of our Key West days, I never let it stop me from having a good time or meeting fun new cruisers! “I’m Steve,” he said. “My wife and I just bought a boat. We’re going to splash tomorrow then move aboard.”
Super cool, right? Well, wait until you see the boat they bought! This vessel has quite the following.
Steve told me that afternoon at the bar—he and his super cool wife, Ashley were there having their necessary “Holy crap, we just bought a boat” drink—that the boat they bought was the s/v Lazy Gecko, so Phillip and I knew they were getting an awesome 1985 Alberg 37. And, Phillip and I had planned to come watch them splash, hand over a bottle of champagne and enjoy seeing two newbie cruisers launch their cruising dreams. But, what we didn’t know was that the geckos. THE GECKOS. Jeremiah and Brittany were going to be there, too. They had flew in just for the day to finalize the deal, make sure the engine ran for the new geckos and help get Steve and Ashley secure on their new boat and safely off the dock. When Phillip and I were walking toward the shipyard and I saw Brittany pushing Rhys in his little stroller, I jumped for joy!
It was so fun to get a spontaneous surprise visit with the Geckos. We have only been able to connect with them in person on very few occasions. One time they were coming through Pensacola and stopped to get a quick tour of our boat. It was very fun to finally meet them in person.
Then we got to spend another millisecond together when we were all at the Miami Boat Show in February last year. Say Hey to Teddy J with SailLoot!
We had also collaborated remotely doing a virtual tour of their beautiful Alberg, which you can watch here. You’ll see Steve and Ashley are getting one heck of a bluewater boat. In all, we’ve always enjoyed hanging out with them and it was a lot of fun to have a quick impromptu reunion in Key West. We’re very excited for the new geckos, sailing under the name “Bella Vista” and we’re eager to see where their plans take them. Phillip and I had some influence on their first destination. I’ll let some of you guess where we encouraged them to go! For now, meet the new Geckos and say hello to some old friends. Jeremiah, Brittany, we’ll sure miss seeing you guys on the beautiful Alberg, but we’re really excited to see what the sailing future holds for you. I’m sure Bella Vista is going to take the Alberg to many new and exciting places!
Love these crazy sexy two!
“I need an Annie selfie!” Brittany said. “You got it!”
Bon Voyage Bella Vista!
So, tons of fun in Key West, right? We love that quirky little colorful town. Tons of great restaurants and tiki bars, too. Not to mention sunset at Mallory Square. The street performers. Boat parades. Pool parties. All kinds of perks.
But, Phillip and I had our sights set on the Bahamas for a reason. It was time to go! But, one must never be in a hurry when cruising. We knew one of the toughest jumps we might have to make on this journey would be across the Gulf Stream. Pam Wall and so many other experienced cruisers had advised (very harshly but necessarily) against crossing the stream in any kind of north wind. The Gulf Stream is a powerful current that runs south to north along the east coast of the United States and trying to cross it with any kind of north wind we had heard was like trying to run on a treadmill while someone is spraying a fire hose in your face. Very lumpy seas and forceful current-meets-wind conditions.
When Phillip and I left the dock in Pensacola we were prepared to sail straight to the Bahamas if the weather would allow, we figured it was unlikely but possible. When we got the weather data our fourth day of the journey across the Gulf from our router, it showed a front coming through the next couple of days with steady north winds, so a complete Pensacola-to-Bahamas passage was not advised.
We also knew we might be holed up either in Key West, Marathon or some other key (we had heard Rodriguez Key makes a good jumping off point) possibly for weeks waiting for a good window to cross the Gulf Stream, which would not be ideal but totally tolerable. We were thrilled to find, however, that just a few short days after our landfall in Key West, a wonderful weather window was opening up soon that would likely allow us to make the jaunt from Key West all the way up to West End in the Bahamas. Here is the window we were watching:
We checked the GRIBS, checked with friends and confirmed with our weather router this was our window! On Wednesday late-morning, December 20th, we tossed the lines in Key West headed for West End. Next up on the blog, we make the jump! BV4: Crossing the Stream – Key West to West End. Stay tuned!