Book Swap Mojo

April 26, 2014:

You might think the ferry ride back from the Dry Tortugas was a little disheartening, having to leave those idyllic islands behind, knowing we had kind of hit the mid-point of our trip, geographically, at least, but it really didn’t have that effect.  “So, we’ve got to take this ferry back to Key West where our sailboat and more adventures are waiting?”  Yeah, not really a downer in our opinion.  We returned invigorated, excited to get back to our boat and tell her how beautiful it was on Garden Key and how much she was going to love sailing there when we come back to the Dry Tortugas.  We were excited to see Key West coming up in the distance.


Phillip and I could both feel it, like a steady stream of electricity buzzing through us.  There were still so many places on the island to explore!  There was still so much to see and eat and do!  We were itching to get off that ferry to grab our next adventure by the collar and shake it!  This was our time!  And, we still had plenty of time that day.  The ferry returned from the Dry Tortugas around 4:00 p.m.  Uhhh-huhhh.  I know what you’re thinking.  Happy Hour.  That’s right.  We’ve still got time!  

We jumped in the shower quick to make it to Alonzo’s for the 50-cent oysters.  I brought The Paris Wife with me to the showers so I could make my tribute to the marina book swap on the way.  I finished The Paris Wife on the way to the Dry Tortugas, which was perfect, because it is a sad, poignant book.  The kind that sinks into your chest and begins to swell into an ache.  I found myself mad at Hemingway, hating him, but understanding him at the same time.  It certainly resonated.  So, it was good to shut that book and step off the ferry into crystal-green waters filled with shimmery fish clouds.  The feeling the book invokes is something you want to feel, but it’s also a feeling you want to balance with fresh air and beauty.  It was a day of closure it seemed, as Phillip finished In Our Time on the ferry-ride back.  He said it was really interesting reading it after The Paris Wife, where you saw Hemingway create it from his wife, Hadley’s, perspective, and he liked watching the evolution of Hemingway’s writing style from In Our Time, his first book, to his later masterpieces.  That one’s definitely on my list (as are many!)  But, since Phillip was reading it on the way back, I dug into my back-up book swap book – a juicy little Lee Childs thriller – 61 Hours.  I made it one third of the way through by the time we docked at Key West – certainly a fun, quick suspense read.

When we returned, I told Phillip I wanted to keep The Paris Wife and give it to a friend of mine back home who is an author, knowing she would appreciate the Hemingway haunt it had left me with, but he was quick to scold me.  “You can’t,” he said.  “You’ll ruin your book swap mojo.”

My what?!?

Yes, mojo, the Captain explained, in his infinite marina wisdom.  Apparently, there is some unspoken rule in the land of marina book swaps, that if you get a good book from a marina book swap, you’ve got to give it back at another marina to ensure your continued good book karma.  “Oh, alright!”  I supposed I could just tell my friend about The Paris Wife and she could get her own copy.  If that’s what it takes to nurture my mojo!

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So, I put it back, but, I think the marina sensed my flirt with thoughts of infidelity, because I was left with the Fabio, ripped abs romance novels, and this hot little western number:



Clearly my mojo was tainted.  I’m glad I had a Jack Reacher number and a few other alternatives to get me to the next marina, where I hoped to find less whips and abs.  (Not that there’s anything wrong with that).

Once showered, we headed to Alonzo’s Oyster Bar to enjoy another dozen 50-cent oysters and some crisp white wine in the shade.  The perfect treat after a long day in the sun.

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I love building the perfect bite on each cracker.  A fresh oyster, just the right amount of cocktail sauce, with a little horseradish mixed in, and a squeeze of lemon on top.  Follow that with a sip of chilled sauvignon blanc, repeat five times and that makes for a pretty darn happy hour for me!  While I was still mad at the man for his heartbreaking treatment of Hadley, I have to say, Hemingway certainly knew how to describe the taste:


After oysters, we headed back out on the street and found ourselves once again, drawn to the breath of the Hog!  Cliff Cody was belting out another Lady Gaga number at the Saloon, so we decided to stop in for a bit to check out the locals and let Cody serenade us through our first cold one(s).

Love the people-watching at Hog’s.  We knocked back one or two and then made our way over to the La Trattoria for a big, Italian dinner.  I mean, we’d been to the Dry Tortugas and back today.  We had snorkeled with sharks!  We had required first aid!  Certainly, we were entitled to a decadent, four course Italian meal?  We decided we were, and breezed right in.


Table for two, please,” said the Captain.

We ordered up a great bottle of Montepulciano and the escargot.

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The wine had a great pepper finish that really cut through the richness of the escargot.  While it took me a couple of tries and several reiterations by the Captain for me to get the pronunciation of the wine right (had nothing to do with the alcohol intake I assure you), I finally nailed it!  Mon tae pul chee ahh noh.  And, I proudly showed off my Italian skills when I ordered our second bottle.  Teach me to pronounce wines, and you’re just asking for trouble …

It came just in time for our salad course – a homemade caeser with whole anchovies, fresh-grated parmesan and big crunchy, spiced croutons.  Superb!


But, the dish that really stole the show was the canneloni.  Fresh canneloni, made in house, stuffed with ground veal and spinach and smothered in a baked tomato sauce.

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Press fingers to lips and “muah!”  Our big, Italian dinner was the perfect treat after a long, adventurous day.  We had been to the Dry Tortugas and back – a definite milestone on our trip.  But, we still had so much ahead.  We still had to sail our boat all the way back to Pensacola from the Keys.  If the trip back was anything as exciting as the trip down, we were in for an incredible adventure.  We had one more day in the Keys, then we would set off again, back out into the open Gulf, back on night shifts, back OUT THERE!

Next Time by Sailboat

April 26, 2014:

I didn’t want to cause too much of a scene getting first aid for my coral collision back at the ferry.  To be honest, I truly thought if they saw the blood dripping down my leg, they might quarantine me in some cordoned-off locker on the boat.  I could see myself sitting alone on one of the boat benches with yellow crime scene tape draped around me.  And, you’ve seen how beautiful it was out there.

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There was no WAY they were keeping me off Garden Key any longer than necessary.  So, I tried to play a little coy with the ferry boy, but he was a wiley one:

Annie:  “Excuse me, sir?  I just need a little band-aid please.”

Ferry Boy:  “What for?”

Annie (thinking to stop the gushing river from my calf):  “Uhhh … it’s just a nick.”

Ferry Boy:  “Lemme see.”

Annie:  “No, really, it’s nothing.  Nevermind.  I’ll just … ”

Ferry Boy:  “Just let me see it.  We’ll get you doctored up and back out there in no time.”

Ahhh … Okay, I thought.  Whew.  They’re not going to banish me to the lower barracks.  The folks on the ferry were great.  They washed my bloody patch right up, smeared some Neosporin on it and sent me back out to play.  Phillip and I had just about an hour left on the island, so we kicked back in the sand and continued breathing in the view.

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I was really surprised by how many different types of people that had come over with us on the ferry tour.  I hate to say I fully expected to see only the plump-type tourists sporting their fanny packs and fanning themselves in the heat.


“Now ya’ll get together there Edna, and say cheese!”

And, while there were a few of them, there were also plenty of others from varying nationalities.  Two young ladies who rode behind us on the way there sounded like they were speaking Portugese.  There were two families who looked to be Pakistani or some other middle eastern descent, and there was this one couple on the beach that really caught our eye.  You know when you see beautiful people, you just can’t help but stop and stare for a minute?  It was like these two had just walked by:


They laugh because they know they’re prettier than you.  Ha ha ha!

But, the couple on the beach had to be European.  The woman had this almost inhuman hourglass shape, long cascading dark hair and a tiny string bikini.  And, the guy was sporting an even teenier speedo without an ounce of body fat on him.  I know, I should have taken pictures so you could see, but we were just kind of mesmerized.  And I didn’t want to play the role of creepy tourist that day.  They set up a little picnic spot next to us and fed each other little niblets of prosciutto.  Like I said, very European.  But, it was nice to see so many different types of people, all there enjoying the same breathtaking views.



After our last hour in the sun, the ferry crew started to herd us back to the boat so we could start making the two-hour passage back to Key West.  Finding the AC-chilled section of the boat to feel more like a meat locker than a luxury, Phillip and I snagged two sun chairs on the Lido deck to make the cruise home al fresco.  And, the best part about the ride home was the drink service!  For the cruise back, the friendly ferry crew opened up a full bar for these thirsty Tortuga go-ers!  (Well, and by “full,” I mean rum, vodka and beer – but hey, rum works just fine for this Mate, so no complaints here!).  

“Well, have two rum runners with an extra shot, please.”



We also found the view from the back deck of the ferry made the perfect backdrop for an all-out photo shoot of the Dry Tortugas!  Roll that beautiful footage!

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Okay, so there were SOME fanny-packers … 

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“Next time, we’ll be over THERE!”


“On the ole’ Rest, anchored out with the rest of the sailboats!”

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I know, we (well, and by “we” I mean I) went a little crazy with the picture-taking.  But, it was so frustrating trying to capture the beauty of the place, the electric green of the water, but finding the photos just didn’t do it justice.  I kept snapping anyway, thinking at least the pictures would at least remind me of what it really looked like to see it in person.

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There!  You see that bright, neon stripe on the water?  That’s how green it was!  Like what I imagine the color turquoise would like look, if you were on acid.  I can only imagine …

We watched as the last white spits of land disappear on the horizon,

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before settling into our sun chairs and kicking back for the cruise home.  We read, napped, ordered two more rum runners, read and napped some more while the boat cruised along at 28 knots.  While we will definitely be coming back to this pristine place someday on the s/v Plaintiff’s Rest, it was kind of nice to make the trip there and back in one day on the comfort of a big steaming ferry.

While the trip there by sailboat is typically about a 15 hour-passage, that is–as is everything with sailing–assuming good weather and a favorable sea state.  Case in point, the day after we came and went to the Dry Tortugas via ferry, our buddy Johnny Walker (there he is!)


who made the trip from Ft. Myers Beach down to Key West with us, headed out to the Dry Tortugas from Key West on his 38′ Morgan.  And while it was a quick, 14-hour sail there, the sail back turned out to be a 24-hour, 4-6 foot beatdown.  The auto-pilot wouldn’t hold and Johnny pretty much had to hold the wheel the entire time.  Did I also mention that Johnny is just a few months shy of 72 and still out there sailing like a hellion?  A total badass, that one!  But, he said it was exhausting.  A really rough trip.  So, while we do plan to make the trip from Key West to the Dry Tortugas on the Plaintiff’s Rest some day, we know we’ll have to plan at least a week or more to time the weather and sea-state right and really enjoy the trip.

Besides, an adventure like that is not something you want to rush anyway …


Next time!

The Dry Tortugas!

April 26, 2014:

That’s right, the westernmost point of the Florida Keys, the furthest island out, the Dry Tortugas!  This was the day!  When we set off some three weeks prior from Pensacola on this maiden voyage to the Keys, we had originally planned to sail to the Dry Tortugas.  We really wanted to make it all the way there via the s/v Plaintiff’s Rest, but we knew when we set off that it might not happen.  The Dry Tortugas are another 70 miles west of Key West, so about another 15-20 hour passage there, depending on the sea-state and weather, and then another 15-20 hours back.  So, to spend a few days anchored out at the Dry Tortugas would add another 5-6 days to our already-extended trip.  All evidence to the contrary (and until we hit it big with the Powerball), we do still have day jobs we had to get back to.  But, we weren’t going to let that stop us from seeing one of the most pristine islands in the states.  We booked a ferry and set off:


And, you may laugh at this, but I have to say, riding on that ferry kind of blew my mind.  We had just traveled some 550 miles at the average speed of 4.5 knots.  If we “broke six” on the sailboat, we were making some real time.  And, now, here we were on this big ass ferry doing 29 knots.  We were flying!


I looked like a goofy dog hanging his head out the back window as we ripped across the Gulf.


“Jeepers, Captain!  Look at us go!”

I couldn’t stop staring over the side of the boat!

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It really was a strange sensation, though, to be moving SO fast across the water when we had been harnessing the power of the wind for most of our voyage, slowly cruising across the Gulf, picking our way along the coast to avoid the shoals and crab pods.  Oh, and the crab pods!  I had been so trained while we were sailing to keep a squinted eye out along the horizon for them, that the first one I saw as we were rushing through the water on the ferry, I nudged Phillip and pointed it out.  But, before I could get out the words, “Look, Phillip a crab … “   zwhoop!  There it went.  Sucked right up under the ferry.  Dodge crab pods?  Please.  These people had places to go!  It was crazy to see the ferry just mow a path right through them when we had taken such care all through the Gulf to gingerly pick our way around them.  Big.  Fast.  Motorboats.  That certainly was new to us.

But, cruising on the ferry was pretty nice.  We left around 8:00 a.m., and they had a little breakfast buffet spread out for us.  The typical kind of hotel continental breakfast food (bagels, cream cheese, toast, bright yellow fluff eggs) but it was air-conditioned inside the galley and there were plenty of places to curl up with a book and just relax.  I finished The Paris Wife, which we had picked up at the book swap in Port St. Joe.  It was somewhat of a tragic, but touching read.  Incredibly creative historical fiction viewpoint through the eyes of Hemingway’s first wife.  Highly recommend it.  And, Phillip dug into In Our Time – the bikini sprint birthday book.  We enjoyed sipping our coffee and reading while we cruised along.  Around mid-morning, we started to spot some islands on the horizon.

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And, then she started to come into view.

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Fort Jefferson.

I couldn’t believe the color of the water around her–so bright it was almost electric.  This piercing, neon green.  These photos can’t even begin to capture it.  It’s hard to take your eyes off of it, it’s so striking.


Just as we were pulling in, a sea plane landed.

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And, then I saw the sign:

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Ha!  What a laugh.  It should just say:    <—  Poor Folk       Millionaires —>

When the ferry docked, we were free to explore.  Both Phillip and I were a little hesitant when we first booked the ferry because we really would have liked to have come to this beautiful island on our own sailboat and explored at our leisure.  Having to follow the rest of the fanny-pack clad tourists along, brochure in hand, being lead every step of the way by a verbose tour guide, is not how we wanted to experience this pristine landscape.  But, I will say, the folks running this ferry tour did a great job of allowing us the freedom and flexibility to experience the island on our own terms.  The ferry docked around 11:00 a.m. and a lunch spread was laid out.  You were then given the choice to either follow the formal tour guide, brochure in hand, and get a detailed history of the fort or you could explore on your own.  And, you didn’t have to eat lunch on the boat.  (You could if you wanted to, and many did because it was air-conditioned.)  But, you were also free to pack your own sandwiches and snacks up and set up your own picnic style lunch wherever you wanted on the island.  Snorkel gear was available in all sizes.  You could just check it out and bring it back at your leisure.  It was really a great “hands-off” approach to a tour.

Once the ferry docked, we set off for the Fort.

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It reminded me a lot of Fort Pickens back in Pensacola.  Lots of underground artillery bunkers, windows set up with a swivel gun for firing, twisted corridors and barracks for storage.

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We came across some neat finds while we were down there:


One of the makeshift boats they used to cross from Cuba.


An old Fort tower, lighthouse-slash-lookout.

We also learned some really interesting history about the Fort while we were poking around.  While I had a sinking suspicion that the name of the island had something to do with turtles (and I envisioned a Sir Francis Drake-like character stumbling upon a sea turtle-infested spit of land), I also know I have a tendency to make these type of silly connections on my own initiative that have nothing to do with reality, so I never spoke of it, but alas it was confirmed!  We learned that Ponce de Leon discovered the islands in 1513 and named them the Tortugas (which does mean turtle in Spanish) because of the hundreds of sea turtles he and his men found along the islands and shoals.  The Dry was added to let other explorers know there were no springs here.  It was a pretty rough environment for voyagers.  After 30 years on Garden Key, and due to an excruciating lack of sufficient supplies and provisions, the U.S. decided to forego the completion of Fort Jefferson, and it remained abandoned until the late 1800’s when it was used as a prison for a brief stint.  I could totally see that.


The place was pretty barren.  And, there’s not really anywhere you could go assuming you did escape.  It is kind of out there on its own in the middle of the Gulf.


We made it up to the top wall and found a great view of the entire island.

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We could see out to the anchorage, too, where we would someday be dropping our hook.


The Captain looked out across the boats, a sigh and a dreamy glaze in his eye.


“We’re going to be right there,” he’d tell me.  “Right there … ”  And, we will.  I can assure you.  Next time we come to the Dry Tortugas, the Plaintiff’s Rest will be resting her tired hull right there!

But, we were thrilled also to be there by ferry.  No matter how we got there, it was too beautiful not to enjoy.

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The water, again, is what continued to captivate me.  A glowing turquoise.


Being the rogue travel rebels we are, we decided to pack up a lunch and eat on the wall that forms the moat around the Fort.

“Moat seating for two, please?”

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With a view like that, I don’t think I’ve ever had a ham sandwich that tasted that good.  We were fine dining al fresco!  You could lean over the wall and look down at the water and see all kind of fish and marine activity.

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We saw so much wildlife that day.  Even whales!


So tame they would just float right by!

We had a great time picnicking on the moat.  We could have sat there all day …  But, you know us.  Not much for sitting.  We like to go, see and do!  So, it was time to see what this crystal green water was all about!

“Lose those clothes, Mate!  It’s time to get in!”


“Roger that, Cap’n!”


We snapped up some snorkel gear and set to it.

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I have only snorkeled a handful of times in my life, so I’m positively spoiled now.  Sorry Captain – you created this monster.  Because, the snorkeling there, at the Dry Tortugas, was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.  Not six inches below the waterline and you could see a whole spectrum of colors and coral and wildlife.

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There were tons of coral heads just teeming with life.  Many of them had these little (I’m struggling to describe it) swirly poof things, kind of like a flower blossom, that stuck out of them and when you swished your hand by them, they would suck back in to the coral.  You wouldn’t even have known they were alive, until you awakened them with a swish of water.  It was the coolest thing.

We snorkeled around the moat wall and then headed out about 100 yards off the western side of the island to the coral heads.  Phillip had a real eye for the wildlife and he pointed out a huge grouper, even a nurse shark.  I know what they say about sharks – don’t bother them and they won’t bother you – but I’ll say I kicked away slowly and steadily, keeping my eye on that guy.  This is one Mate who had no desire to be shark bait that day.  We snorkeled around for an hour or so and then kicked back on the beach to bask in the sun.

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After a short rest, we decided to walk along the moat wall around to the south side of the island to snorkel around the pilings.  The walk alone was beautiful enough,

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but, I got really excited when I saw the pilings.

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Can you imagine the marine life we’re going to find in there?  Let me tell you, you can’t.  You just have to see it.  We dove in, and it felt like we were swimming in a dream.  Clouds of fish would swirl around you until you poked your finger out and swished them apart like a puff of air.  There were hundreds, thousands of them, swimming together and swirling around like some chained piece of jewelry.  It was mesmerizing.

So much so I forgot I was even human.  Legs?  What legs?  I don’t have appendages, I’m a fish!  The sting of it surprised me when it struck and I snorkeled around for a bit in denial.  Throbbing leg?  What throbbing leg?  There are fish to be seen and poked!  But Phillip rightly pulled me out when a light, murky cloud started to form around me.  I did mention the shark, right?

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Break out the old first aid kit …   First Mate done got into something again!

And Then the Roosters Came

April 25, 2014:

Okay, I’m going to be honest.  We awoke from the previous day’s Big FOUR-OH in a bit of a drunken slumber.  The sun rose, we moaned and groaned our way back into the upright position and stumbled our way back over to the Cuban Coffee Hut,


to do more stupid things … but not faster.  With the vast quantities of rum and tequila still swimming in our veins, three Cuban coffee queens and we would still only be doing things at normal stupid human speed.  But, we were Day One into Phillip’s second forty years and still on the hunt for new adventures in Key West.  It seemed everywhere we walked there were plenty of interesting sites and scenes to take in.


“What the truck?!?”


“Don’t dredge on me!” it says.  You gotta love the quirky conch personalities on this little island.  Take this for example.


I know you see her.  That pirate-clad pixie up in the upstairs window.  What’s she sayin?


“Help me!”

Uhh-uuhhh Miss Sparrow.  You got yourself commandeered up there.  We want no part of your pirate drama!  But, do feel free to show us some pirate booty!  

I know, I know …


Speaking of, while we were mozeying around downtown, I got to show Phillip the little hole-in-the-wall bookstore where I stormed in during my first blaze down Duval Street to get his birthday book.  For some reason, the Captain didn’t think that story was funny the fifth time I told it …   “C’mon, that’s good stuff!  Wait till I write up the blog on it!”

But, a couple of coffees down and now on the hunt for lunch, right around the corner we found our haven.  A pink stucco gas station-turned-Cuban Caribbean eatery!  Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Paseo’s!


Take it in …


Phillip ordered up a hot pressed Cuban sandwich,


and I got the Paseo’s Greens bowl.


Basically, a huge Carribean bowl filled with pickled beets, cabbage, and piled high with the most succulent chicken thighs I have ever put in my mouth.


And … I’m a champion wing eater!  That chicken was so moist I started to think they had to be wringing their necks out behind by the building upon order and roasting them up in house.  And, then my suspicious were confirmed!  Because …


... that’s when the roosters came!

They were clucking around all over the place!

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Even little baby ones!

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Right by my feet!


“Those must be the thighs I ordered!  Grab ’em Pedro!”

The roosters really started to rally the troops when our shared side came out – a whole roasted ear of corn (still in the shuck), slathered with seasoned sour cream and topped with fresh chopped cilantro.

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I mean … 

The Captain and I ate ourselves just about sick.  It was hard to sit upright after we finished. A good fifteen minutes after our meal, and we were still kicked back under the gas station awning, picking corn from our teeth and letting the misters spray us down.


Ahhh … 

After that meal, we were stuffed!  We headed back to the boat to nap it off.  Because that’s what you do in Key West.  Drink, eat and nap.  In that order.  Oh, and wash your boat.  We did that, too.  Since the previous day had been devoted entirely to celebratory matters, we spent most of the afternoon getting our boat chores done – filling the tanks with water, filling our spare diesel cans and giving the boat a good, long scrub-down.  She was literally caked with salt from the passage.  You could physically see it on the handrails and stanchions.  Our girl was itching for a bath.  And, it was a hot day to do it, but there’s just something about getting that boat all cleaned up, even in the sweaty heat of day, that’s truly rewarding.  We showered up afterward, too, and the boat and crew all felt better for it.

As you may recall, we had plans that night to have dinner with our buddy Postal Bob on his Catalina 34.  Remember, we had the mackerel, he had the shark, and Captain Ron was coming with the yellowfin tuna!

Bob invited us over around dusk to start with some sundowners and tall tales at sea.


“C’mon on board!”

And, there’s Johnny, too!  Mr. Walker and his son made the trip from Ft. Myers to Key West with us on his 38′ Morgan, the s/v Windwalker.  Bob’s boat was set up perfect for hosting.  A big spread was laid out in the cockpit, a full bar was opened to everyone below.  Bob had a specified “beer cooler” in the cockpit full of brewskies and he was working on a four-course feast when we arrived!  Not to mention his boat.  Gees!  It was like a condo at the marina.  He had A/C, a microwave, TV …  That’s living!  We sat down below in the A/C for about all of fifteen minutes before our teeth were chattering.  It seems we had fully acclimated and preferred to dine al fresco.  It was a beautiful evening out anyway, and the cockpit is just always a great place to gather.


There’s the Windwalker/Plaintiff’s Rest crew.  Johnny next to me, and his son, Jeremy, next to Phillip.  They were a lot of fun and, thankfully, they hadn’t yet heard all of my crazy stories.


“No, wait, wait.  Let me tell you boys about my bikini sprint to the bookstore … “

Bob was such a generous host, too.  He did all of the prep work himself down below and plated everything up while we were visiting in the cockpit.


“You keep passing drinks up here and we’re going to want some dinner to go with it!”  I call it the “Give a Mouse a Cookie” phenomenon.  But Bob had us covered.  He cooked up the mackerel we had caught on the way down to the Keys (yes, we still had plenty enough left over to feed the whole crew).  That was one big fish!


And, Bob taught us a great trick about mackerel, too.  We had cooked up a few filets our first night in the Keys and while it was good, it had turned out a bit more meaty, a little tougher, than other fresh fish we had caught and cooked up.  But, Bob said “just soak it in milk!”  He let the filets we brought over soak for a bit before he grilled them up, and that did the trick!


That mackerel was perfect.  And, Bob had made beans and rice, a salad with fresh grated parmesan and grilled zucchini and squash!  See?  A four-course meal … pretty much.  Certainly a fit feast for a boat.  We passed a few plates around and this crew didn’t wait to dig in!

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“Thanks Bob!”

It was a great night spent with great fellow sailors down in the Keys.  Phillip and I really felt like two of the group.  We were cruisers now!  We watched a beautiful sunset from the dock while we polished off the mackerel and another round of drinks.

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We decided to call it an early night because we had a big day the next day.  The biggest of the whole trip perhaps (aside from the Captain’s birthday).

Where were we going tomorrow you ask??   I’ll let you wager a guess …


March 18, 2014 – Some Bitchin News!

It’s not a vulgar heading, I swear.  That’s the guy’s name.  Bob Bitchin.


He’s the editor for one helluva sailing magazine – Cruising Outpost.  So, the “news” is, back in January, I sent a sailing story off to another well-known sailing magazine, Cruising Worldhoping they would pick it up for publication.

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Yes, we documented it for the blog.  We’re just that cool.

Well, as a writer, trust me, you have to get very used to the word ‘no.’  You hear it all the time.  In the beginning, everyone and their dog is going to tell you ‘no.’  And, that’s just what Cruising World did, politely, yes, but still the answer was no.  But, persistence is key.  I wasn’t taking ‘no’ for an answer.  I dusted the story off and sent it on to Cruising Outpost.  I just had a feeling this Bitchin character would get me.


And boy, did he!  They’re printing my story in June baby!  The summer issue.  Be on the lookout for it and subscribe to get your very own copy.


And, more good news!  After rigorous study of the charts and many sit-downs and sundowners with fellow cruisers who have been to the Keys, including the previous owner of our boat, Jack, who sailed our very own s/v Plaintiff’s Rest to the Keys, we have finally made a rough sail plan for our trip.  Shallow waters and treacherous inlets have seemed to be our arch nemesis, so with our 5’2″ draft (which we like to consider 5’6″ to be conservative – plus, it probably will be that after all the wine, water and gas we load on the boat for the trip – in that order), we’ve decided on the following, weather-dependent, sail plan:

We are prepared to leave at any time on or after April 3, 2014, whenever a good weather window arises.  Once underway, we would like to make the jump straight across the Gulf to Clearwater.


That’s approximately a two-and-a-half to three-day passage.  A long jaunt for us, but one we’re hoping to get under our belts at the outset.  We would like to spend less time getting TO the Keys so we can spend more time down there and make a slower trip back up the West Coast.  So, Clearwater is the goal, but, if we run into bad weather or a rough sea state on the way, we plan to duck into Panama City, Apalachicola or Carabelle River to wait it out.

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These are all places we’ve been before during the last leg of the Gulf Crossing and we would like to spend some time, particularly in Carabelle/Apalachicola, at some point during this trip – going or coming.

We will definitely rest in Clearwater, though, and keep an eye out for another good weather window to make the jump down to Marco Island/Capri Pass.


We plan to call in to the municipal marina at Naples on our way in to get a more accurate depth report, but from our review of the charts, it appears the inlet to Naples is too shallow for us to make it in easily there.  Capri Pass at Marco Island seems to be an easier route, and some fellow cruisers recommended we anchor in there and take a day or two to tool around on a local flat boat and check out some of Florida’s famous 10,000 islands.

Once we’re ready to leave Marco Island, in addition to the weather and sea state (which is always a concern), we’ll need to also keep an eye on the Gulf Coast Loop Current, area of warm water that travels up from the Caribbean, past the Yucatan Peninsula, and into the Gulf of Mexico.  Heading directly into that thing can be like jumping on a sailboat treadmill.  Moving fast but going nowhere.


Once we get a good weather/current window, we plan to make the jump west all the way to the Dry Tortugas.

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Making it to the Tortugas is one of the primary goals of this trip.  They seem so pristine and untouched.  Phillip and I both think the Tortugas will be a highlight of the trip for us.  Not to mention the distinct possibility for some killer kiting there!  (Yes, we are bringing the kites and boards, folks.  True to the name of this blog, a great-many of our hobbies are rooted heavily in the wind!)

Then, from the Tortugas, we plan to make the jaunt over to Marquesa Island as fellow cruisers have recommended it as a great place for paddle-boarding, snorkeling, fishing, etc.  But, we know, after making the trip from the Florida West Coast to the Dry Tortugas and anchoring out there for several days, we will be ready to power up, re-provision and wash every loving scrap of material on the boat – including the curtains.  So, tucking in at a swanky slip at Key West will definitely be a priority post-Tortugas.  We’re looking at the Galleon marina, but we will definitely check out the other options before deciding (A&B Marina, Conch Harbor, etc.).  After a night or two (or three!) in Key West (depending on the rum intake) we will gunkhole our way over to Marathon (for those of you not familiar with that term, or think it is something akin to redneck mud fishing — click here).  Post-Marathon, we will then make the cut across to the Gulf side of the Keys under the seven mile bridge then back up to Cape Sable or perhaps Little Shark River and on up the west coast of Florida.


This is, of course, all but a plan at this point, subject to change at any moment depending on weather, currents, sea state, boat performance, any potential mishap or malfeasance (which is likely), the health and condition of the crew, the remaining provisions, the lining up of the stars, the Ouija board readings.  Just about anything – you name it – and the plans can change.  But, we at least now have a PLAN and an available departure date.  It’s now time to start packing the boat and provisioning.

Sometimes I can’t believe this is all really happening.  The Keys …   It’s amazing the places life will take you, if you only let it.