Monday, March 30, 2009

Marathon in our Rearview Mirror

We're making our way across Hawk Channel on our way to Rodriguez Key on an absolutely beautiful day - the sun is shining, the seas are relatively calm and the water is that wonderful shade of turquoise blue that makes you think of a Bahamas, because that's where we are heading!!
Cruising the Hawk Channel

What a difference a day makes - unlike September Song who got beat up yesterday in the Hawk, we left Marathon this morning and have had a wonderful steam with dolphins, flying fish and sea turtles as company.

Hard to believe but when we left Marathon this morning, we won't be back in the States for a couple years!!! Kind of a weird feeling if I do say so - but also very awesome! We are out living our dream!! Today we are "buddy boating" with Lucky Stars
Lucky Stars

and will anchor up around Rodriguez Key where the plan is to meet up with September Song and Life's2Short for the trip on Tuesday across the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas!! We are keeping our fingers crossed but we think we finally have a good weather window. Please Mother Nature, smile on us - we are ready to be in the Bahamas!!!!

We had a ton of fun in Marathon right up to the minute of departure - on Saturday we dinghied (yes in our dinghy with the new 20 hp motor!!!) over to September Song to meet their friends on Life's2Short who had come by land yacht from Islamorada. Joe of Sea Pearl who was docked next to September Song was there to help us tie up the dinghy and let us climb onto his swim platform making for a much more graceful entrance than otherwise would have been possible (thanks Joe!) We had heard so much about Brenda and Todd from Life's2Short (and had even read a bunch of their blog) so it was great to finally meet them - turns out they have more beer on their boat than even we do (they had a beer truck meet them at the dock and unload a pallet - now that's just good planning!)

The afternoon slipped away amid much laughter and some really great gumbo that Brenda had brought!!

Before we knew it, 6:00 pm had rolled around and it was time to dinghy back to Gypsies trying to beat the rain - piece of cake with our new big motor!! On the way home, we were treated to a spotted eagle ray jumping across the bow of the dinghy - too cool!

Sunday was a frantic day of work (again!) trying to get all our last minute boat projects done and all the last minute provisions on board and stowed. Doug was overheard several times mentioning he needed just one more run to Home Depot. After an afternoon with Life's2Short, John, Colleen and I decided we really needed just one more beer run (another 6 cases!) - will we ever find all the beer we've stowed on board (in closets, under beds, in the attic, etc??) Oh well, the boat is loaded to the gills with diesel, food, beverages (most of an alcoholic persuasion), spares and just plain stuff - I think we've added a couple inches to our draft but we are ready for the Bahamas!! We had a couple visitors of the bird variety during the day as if everyone wanted to say goodbye (or at least verify that we were really leaving!).


But we couldn't leave Marathon without one last cocktail party and one last trip to Docksides to hear the Florida Straits Band! So we headed down the dock to Lucky Stars for a cocktail and some great company! Thanks for the rumballs Carol!!! Then it was one last trip to Docksides with Tommy Tunes and the gang playing the Sunday Jam!

We sat out at one of the back tables and had quite a cloud show - the sky darkened and the thunderheads towered over us but no rain fell - it was a good omen!!

Thanks to Rocketman, Tommy Tunes and Diego for making our stay in Marathon so musically fun - we'll catch you on the flip side - hope you're all still around and playing when we pass back through in a couple years!

Leaving Boot Key Harbor this morning was kind of surreal knowing that we won't be back for so long - sad because we grew to really love Marathon but yet also very exciting as we are headed for warmer climes, lower latitudes and more adventures! We'll keep you posted on our travels as often as we can, although where we are headed our internet connectivity won't be as good so don't worry about us if you haven't heard from us for a couple days. We're probably off in our newly powerful dinghy exploring some uninhabited caves or keys or wandering off to some god forsaken bar at the next beach over....but wherever we are, know that we'll have smiles on our faces and our feet in the sand - life is good!

Click here to see our location off Rodriguez Key.

Below is our planned route to Nassau, where we will check in. We will go about half way Tuesday and just drop anchor for the night on the Bahama Bank, completing the trip to Nassau on Wednesday.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Bahamas Daydreamin'

We're almost there and none too soon - as we sit and wait for a weather window to cross over to the Bahamas, there's been just too much fun happening!! Who said that? There's never too much fun, but seriously if we don't leave soon, we all may be ready for Weight Watchers and AA (and not in that particular order)!!!

Between the cocktail parties and the DeFever rendezvous and the nightly live music at Docksides and the afternoon cocktails on the dock (OK I think you get my point), it's been tons of fun here in Marathon - especially since there are about 12 of us "DeFevers" here (not the exact same Marathon gang of twelve that terrorized the town back in January but the core remains the same - Gypsies, September Song and Adventures - with the addition of Lucky Stars, Sea Pearl and Algonquin this time around). We got to chat with the remaining original gang of 12 (TideHiker and Rickshaw) last evening while sipping cocktails on September Song (more later)!

And if Marathon isn't fun enough, the Gypsies decided to do one last road trip binge to Key West to see our friend Scott Kirby - what a night of excess (all of course in good fun!) If the pictures below look like they have been in the blog before, they have (kind of - same shots, different day!) We started our Key West adventure at the Verizon store (which was the real reason for the road trip - or so we tell ourselves) in search of an international aircard and the unlock codes for our GSM international phone so we can swap out local sim cards - all in an attempt (which may be futile) to have some connectivity at reasonable rates in the Bahamas - only time will tell. That mission being accomplished, we descended on the Kirby household ... feeling a little like "What About Bob" as Michelle (Scott's wife) was heard to utter, they aren't really gone - the boat people (as she affectionately, we think, calls us) are back!!!! As an accountant, she was in the middle of tax season, so we left her in peace to hit Schooner Wharf and hear Michael McCloud - let the games begin.

An afternoon of live music and cold beers somehow segued into an evening of live music and cold beers - the only difference was the location and the musician - we had moved on to hear Scott and Dave play at the Hog's Breath.

The evening faded away as the music died and it was on to dinner with Scott, Dave and Michelle (who had joined us earlier at the Hog) at Bagatelle where of course Scott knew the bartender! UGH!!! Bottles of wine later - yes that was bottles, not bags (we were living the high life) ...things started to get a little fuzzy.....Let's just say 6:30 am rolled around way too early the next morning as we had to get the rental car back to Marathon before 9:00! Colleen and I rested up most of the day, which was good because our chauffeurs from Marathon Marina (Thanks Jim and Joe!) picked us up around 5:00 that evening for a cocktail party and bon voyage dinner (although we told ourselves it was really just a get together to talk about plans for the Bahamas)!

We all gathered aboard September Song where we swapped Bahamas plans, cocktails in hand of course!

We are planning to head up to Rodriguez Key sometime this weekend or more likely Monday now based on the weather to stage for a crossing with September Song at a minimum to the Bahamas on Tuesday. The current plan (subject to last minute weather or pure whim) is to cross the Gulf Stream near South Riding Rock and then anchor out on the Bahamas Bank that night with just the stars and our anchor lights to light up the sky - of course we're hoping to have the grills lit up with all that mahi and tuna we're going to catch crossing the Stream!!! I can just taste it now! Then the next day we plan to make the run to Nassau to check in to the Bahamas - we have a slip reserved at the Nassau Harbour Club (thanks Bob and Stephanie for warning us to call ahead!) After a couple days in Nassau, we plan to head on to the Exumas - as much fun as being dockside in Marathon has been, we are all itching to get out and explore the beautiful waters and keys of the Bahamas and hang out on anchor away from the crowds!! While swapping plans, we technological geniuses found a way to call Rickshaw on speaker phone so we could get their schedule - we hope to catch up with them and Tide Hiker in Nassau or in the Exumas!

The night continued as we all walked down to Frosty's for dinner

and unbeknowst to us at that time, a birthday celebration for Stephanie who was celebrating her 39th birthday (again).... us girls have that prerogative!! Happy Birthday Stephanie!!

We had a great dinner even though the waitress let the cat out of the bag about the bday celebration - the key lime pie tasted just as good! It was sad in a way saying goodbye to everyone - some we will see soon in the Bahamas and the party will no doubt continue, but others we don't know when we will see again - that's just the cruising life I guess. I'm sure we'll all see each other again in one particular harbor...or another!

Today was Doug's birthday...not really, but it seemed that way at least present-wise - at 9:30 our new 20 HP 4 stroke Honda dinghy motor arrived!! Doug was up this morning around 4:00 am too excited to sleep. Even I have to admit, it's pretty cool - electric starter and power tilt - wow!! Best of all though is that when we took it for a test ride, we could plane the dinghy with 4 people - yahoo!!!! We might not be in Big Boat Bob's league yet, but at least we have a dinghy motor to be proud of!!! The Bahamas better watch out - the Gypsies are coming and they are ready (and able now) to explore!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Men of DeFever Calendar

We've been getting a lot done on the boat here in Marathon in preparation for heading over to the Bahamas with September Song and Lucky Stars, but all work and no play is usually not our style so we decided to have a party! Joe Mama (as I've said before, you just can't make this stuff up) was playing at Docksides Thursday night so we figured we might as well start the party on Gypsies.

Tammy here...(from now on, just assume it's me unless you hear otherwise)

Robin and Jim from Adventures drove over from Marathon Marina and to our delight they had Bob and Stephanie from September Song and Joe from Sea Pearl with them - both boats had just pulled in and were docked over by Adventures!! The more the merrier at cruisers parties! The last time we had seen those guys was a couple weeks ago in Pelican Bay so it was great to catch up and whoop it up. And whoop it up we did - I don't think I've laughed that long or hard in quite some time and that's really saying something. Carol and Dan from Lucky Stars joined us mid-whoop. It all got started with Naked Big Boat Bob and our comments on his blog which quickly (and in truth I'm not exactly sure how) morphed into the idea of the century - a "Men of DeFever Calendar"!!!! The ideas flew fast and furious as Robin even acted out one tasteful yet highly suggestive "davit scene". Each gentleman was asked to pick his favorite month and suggestions for the monthly photo shoots were bandied about, one funnier than the other. Suffice it to say we now have for the calendar: Pirate Doug and his two wives, Naked Big Boat Bob, Fisherman Dan with his big rod, Big Dinghy Jim - how do you lift yours?, Writer John with his big pen and Big Orange Balls (I mean fenders) Joe...ladies, you'll have to wait to see the calendar to see the actual poses but just as a tease, they do all involve some form of subtle suggested nudity....look what you started Bob! Don't worry Norm (TideHiker), Rick (Rickshaw) and Steve (Aurora) - you haven't been left out! We have saved a month for each of you and have some pretty good ideas for your calendar pose but will welcome your creative input as well. Any other DeFever guys out there that are interested (it's for a worthy cause - next year's Rendezvous!!), please let Robin know - she is the artistic and photographic coordinator!

When we finally headed down to Docksides to see Joe Mama, the ideas were still flying - but more nourishment (and drinks) were needed.

We sat in the back of the restaurant (do you think they know us by now??) where the acoustics weren't great so we didn't really get to hear Joe Mama too well but we had a grand time just as well!! During the middle of the evening Bob and I even made plans to do a repeat on Sunday - party on Gypsies and then hit Docksides to hear the Florida Straits band!!! Why not?? We had plans for Saturday but Sunday was still open and that just won't do!!

On Friday after some morning recovery time, Doug and I proceeded to bike all over Marathon - or at least it seemed that way! We hit West Marine at one end and then biked all the way to Coco Plum Marina which is well past the Vaca Cut on the other end of Marathon! Thank goodness (and Hank who we bought them from) we had the bikes!! After a "family meeting" and much consultation with the experts (Jim and various guys at the inflatable stores around Marathon), we decided to upgrade the motor on our dinghy from a 9.9 hp Honda to a 20 hp Honda which only weighs about 10 pounds more!! So after much angst and dinghy envy, Doug is finally going to be in the land of the big boys (well maybe not quite since we still have the smallest dinghy!) - but at least now we will hopefully be able to get up on plane which should extend our exploration capabilities!!! Since we really couldn't get a bigger dinghy without some structural work on the boat (cutting railings to make it fit), getting the bigger motor seemed like the best way to address the "undersized dinghy problem!!" We should get the motor next Wednesday before heading over to the Bahamas so Doug now will be able to hold his head high once more at cruiser parties!!!

Friday night the Gypsies sat up on the flybridge watching Mother Nature's wild and wonderful spectacle - on one side of the boat we had storm clouds darker than night with thunderheads reaching to the heavens

and on the other side of the boat we had the most spectacular sunset over Boot Key Harbor.

Our heads were on swivels as we kept turning from one side to the other until finally the dark side won - with the first hail sized rain spatters we headed down into the security of Gypsies and watched as the wind and rain roared through the marina, fierce but yet short-lived. Living on a boat truly makes you appreciate the tremendous force of nature - glad we were safely tied up at a dock for that squall line!!

Saturday we rented a car for the day to run more errands (filling up gas cans, getting the cat's herbal antibiotics over on Big Pine Key, buying new lines at Boater's World which is going out of business (boo hoo) and most importantly, getting more beer!) It also came in handy to transport us, along with our food and beverages to the southernmost DeFever mini-rendezvous which was held yesterday afternoon over at Sombrero Beach. The Gypsies joined Robin and Jim (Adventures), Stephanie and Bob (September Song), Carol and Dan (Lucky Stars), Joe (Sea Pearl), Larry (Algonquin) and Mike and Jane (Blessings) as well as the boat dogs (Cassie, Godiva, Godiva (no that is not a typo - there were two chocolate labs named Godiva at the party) and Salty)!!

We had a great time under one of thatched roof huts despite the rain that threatened all day and finally came towards the end of the evening.

We even got to see sneak peaks of some photos that Carol had taken of Dan in anticipation of the calendar - practice, practice....we have re-nicknamed him Big Davit Dan....

The weather is still pretty blustery this morning so it may be a day to hang on the boat and get some stuff done....although March Madness is upon us so we may have a sports bar in our future...we'll see!! Tonight's festivities may be in jeopardy due to the overcast and blustery weather - the folks from Marathon marina are coming by dinghy which is weather dependent - as cruisers we get used to this. Hopefully it will clear up but the forecast is looking pretty unhappy well into next week - looks like the Bahamas crossing won't be at least until next weekend. Bummer - but if you have to wait out a weather window, Marathon is not a bad place to do it .... and with such great people to keep us company and play with, life could be worse...a lot worse!!!!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

All Work and No Play...Is Usually Not Our Problem

Have we mentioned that we really like Marathon?? We've been back at Sombrero Dockside Marina for about 4 (now 5 - I got interrupted) days now and we're having a blast - there aren't quite as many DeFevers here as last time but enough to have fun with (OK all it takes really is one other) and those numbers should be increasing in the next couple days when September Song and several others get here. In fact word just came via the Coconut Telegraph from Robin and Jim on Adventures that we're having a mini DeFever southernmost point rendezvous at Sombrero Beach on Saturday ... kewl, count us in!! Where more than two gather....guess no one wants the party to end!!

Tammy here...

Marathon is great for having arts festivals, live music shows and other funky get-togethers and this past Saturday it was the local seafood festival at the park. After Doug and I had breakfast at the Stuffed Pig (a Marathon tradition - at least for us!!), we had a day (or half-day) of work on the boat and then it was off to the festival with Carol and Dan (Lucky Stars).

As we were walking around the funky jewelry, crafts and pirate booths beers in hand, we ran into Robin and Jim (Adventures) and friends of theirs, Leslie and Larry (Algonquin)

- we were soon pigging out on wonderful fresh seafood like stone crab legs, oysters and smoked fish.

Jim (aka Sweetie) of course traded off his seafood for 2 desserts, but who's counting among friends?? Doug, known for his dinghy envy, was quite bummed to hear that Leslie has shoe lockers on her boat for all her shoes (Doug has been called the male Imelda Marcos on our boat - although not to his face ... too often). There were even bands of wandering pirates roaming the festival grounds - while there may be some resemblance, trust me ladies, he was no Johnny Depp!!!

A great evening was capped off by listening to Rocketman and Tommy Tunes (the Florida Straits Band) play as the sun set. Certainly a day to remember - Carol and I, however, overheard the greatest line of the day from one of the guys in the spice booth who was trying to get someone who didn't like hotdogs to try some of his spices - "Well I'll just click my heels and see if I can pull out a cucumber" was all we heard before dissolving into fits of giggles! Guess you had to be there....

On Sunday we spent most of the day working on the boat, especially dumpster diving (our name for getting stuff out of the lazarette which is pretty packed!) and moving stores around to figure out what final provisions we need to head over to the Bahamas - bottom line is we needed more beer and wine!!! The wisdom we have received is to throw away spares to make room for beer and TP ...OK well maybe not that extreme, but we got the message - you can never have enough of either! Sunday night we had a couple cocktails on the flybridge and then headed up to Docksides for dinner and to watch the Florida Straits band for their Sunday jam night - while we were having dinner, we got to see the space shuttle launch - very cool!!

While we didn't have as great a view as Tide Hiker and Rickshaw who are on the east coast, it was still pretty impressive! The band rocked it as always - and we had a ball dancing and just generally whooping it up! Give me my crocs and watch out we come!

On Monday Colleen, Doug and I set off in our rental car for a provisioning trek to Miami - we hit the Apple store to get our computers all tuned up and then it was on to Walmart, Target, Costco and then a second Walmart since we bought the first one out of wine (seriously!!) By the time we got back to the boat, it was too late to do much more than put away the frozen and refrigerated stuff and call it a night. That meant most of Tuesday was spent breaking everything down and packaging it to store away. When you live on a boat, you take off all the cardboard boxes and put things in ziploc bags or snapware and you even take labels off cans that are going to be stored since cockroaches love the glue on labels and cardboard and once you get bugs on the boat, you are seriously not a happy camper - or so we've heard - so far we've had a bug free boat and intend to keep it that way!!

By Tuesday afternoon we were looking pretty good, except for one thing - we hadn't found any decent prices on beer (and when you plan on buying in bulk, it pays to shop around!) Taking advantage of our last afternoon with the car, Doug and I hit all the required local stores...Home Depot, West Marine, Boaters World and several different stores in search of beer - mission accomplished!! We came home with everything on our list (of course our list is always expanding) and 16 18-packs of beer - since we got the beer all stowed, we realized we have room for more, that will be tomorrow's mission! We also had to take the boat kitties to the vet for their health certificate that they need to enter the Bahamas - very traumatic (for them and for me)!!! But we got wonderful news - for 21 year old kitties they are in great health!! They are back on the boat loving life and as cute as ever - they are just raring to get to the Bahamas (they don't know exactly why, but they sense we are excited so they are along for the ride and happy for the opportunity!)

Meanwhile Colleen was out desperately trying to find some live Irish music (St. Patrick's Day is somewhat of a religion to the Kelly family) and she was sporting her green! Unfortunately live Irish music appears to be scarce here in the Keys, so we found ourselves at Docksides once more listening to Dan Sullivan with Carol and Dan from Lucky Stars and Larry from Algonquin.

We had a stealth visit from our musician friend from Key West, Scott Kirby, who was headed back to KW from about a month long tour - unfortunately he was only able to stay for about a half hour but it was great as always to see him and we may be able to hook up with him in the Bahamas in early April.

By 8:00 pm it was time to head back to the boat where Colleen had made the traditional corned beef and cabbage dinner along with a Guinness french onion soup - St. Patty's Day was saved!

Yesterday was more boat chores and provisioning - runs to Home Depot (do they really know our names by now??) and assorted places. Colleen's family hit town so she and John got to spend time with them. Doug and I visited down the dock with Carol and Dan on Lucky Stars - they have become great friends and we are looking forward to traveling to the Bahamas with them and September Song whenever Mother Nature allows. Dan is a fishing guru that we are taking lessons from and we hope that he will help us catch lots and lots of fish when we cross the Gulf Steam and into the Bahamas (if not, maybe they'll share!!!!) Looks like we will be here at least through Sunday as the winds are from the NE until at least then and you never cross the Gulf Stream when the winds are out of the North quadrant. So I guess the only thing left to do is plan a party - we just got emails from Robin on Adventures that the mini-rendezvour is on for Saturday afternoon and the planning is well underway!

This morning it is raining which I can't really complain about since it hasn't rained in weeks and weeks - sounds like a day for more boat projects which is good, because we still have a ton that we want to get done before we do the crossing to the Bahamas!! The work on a boat is never done.....

Click here to see our Marathon location.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Marathon Our Home Away From Home

Can I tell you how cool it was pulling in to Boot Key Harbor in Marathon yesterday afternoon and seeing Roy (the dockmaster) and John (the 4th gypsy back from the cold wilds of NH) at the dock at Sombrero Dockside to greet us! We also had an audience dinghying around in the harbor cheering us in, Carol and Dan Rohr from Lucky Stars who we last saw up at the DeFever Rendezvous. Luckily it was a perfect dock....such pressure! Carol and Dan even thought we knew what we were doing....

Tammy here...

No sooner had we tied up to the dock when Carol and Dan came on board for a cold beer - now that's the way to get a pseudo-homecoming started!!

We spent the rest of the afternoon/evening catching up and chilling out since this week we have tons to do to get ready to head to the Bahamas. We have work to do on the boat, provisioning, and miscellaneous "chores" to get done before leaving the States and heading south. There are some things that you just can't find or are too expensive in the islands - luckily this is offset by the cheap and plentiful rum!! We just spoke with Bob from September Song and they should be here in less than a week and then we will just wait for a weather window to hop over to the Bahamas - finally!! So far the plan is for Gypsies, September Song and Lucky Stars to head out from here and meet up with Tide Hiker and Rickshaw, who are going to be leaving from No Name Harbor in Biscayne Bay, somewhere in the Bahamas (tbd)...sounds like a plan! Will the Bahamas ever be the same again???

Doug and I (of course) had to bike to the Stuffed Pig for breakfast this morning after being awakened by two laughing gulls outside our porthole window - they were sitting on one of the marina pilings having quite the loud conversation!! It wasn't even the boat rooster waking us up this morning!!

We needed a good night sleep after the prior night anchored in the Little Shark River - our anchor seemed to have a mind of its own! Around midnight it seemed to drag about 50 feet one way, reset, and then when the current turned again around 5:00 am, it seemed to drag about 50 feet in the opposite net net, when we hauled it to leave at first light, we were basically in the exact same position as when we had set it the afternoon before...the only casualty was our nights can sleep when you're dead I guess!! And after all, we did have company during the night - Puss was right there with us!

Otherwise we had a really nice afternoon hanging out in the Little Shark River watching the dolphins, snapping turtles and birds playing around our boat and the sunrise that morning was spectacular!

The day before we had dropped the dink to explore Marco Island - we were a little disappointed in that there is no real cute town (ie no seaside bars or quaint shops) in Marco(at least that we found without a car) - it is very much a planned development community and while it has beautiful beaches, it didn't appear to have that really funky character that we usually look for. So after a quick land reconnaissance, we hopped back in the dink and sauntered over to the Snook Inn for lunch - a perfect way to pass the afternoon - that and sunning topsides for the rest of the day! The next morning we raised the anchor at first light as we had a long trip to the Little Shark River. Some mornings when you are out cruising are so beautiful that they just make your soul sing and if you ever had any question why you're out here doing this, they instantly vanish - the morning leaving Marco was one of those unbelievably spectacular mornings! As I pulled out of our anchorage, the full moon still hung crystal clear in the sky ahead of me,

while behind me the sun was just starting to crest over the horizon - as I turned out of Capri Pass to head south, a solid white orb hung in the lightening night sky to my starboard and a brilliant orange orb lit up the morning sky and the reflected water to my port.

I truly felt like the luckiest person in the world, not only to be witnessing such a spectacle of nature, but to be sharing it with people I love. I also know that this is still the beginning of our adventure and there will be many more sunrises and sunsets that await us in settings we've probably only dreamed about!!!

Yesterday's trip from the Little Shark River to Marathon was an awesome ride as well - we timed getting out of the Little Shark with the tide, so although the water was pretty low, we always had at least a foot, foot and a half of water under our keel - a virtual embarrassment of water after our last trek there! We left at first light again so got to watch the moon sink into, and the sun rise over, the horizon in tandem - it never gets old!

We had tons of company on the ride back - flying eagle rays, lots of dolphins and even a cormorant that caught a ride with us for about 15 minutes by perching on our front bow rail - he/she (its so tough to tell) was a riot! The wind was blowing and the cormorant would just lift up its wings to better balance himself or air out his wings. He was obviously tuckered as there was no land in sight and decided that he would take a load off and ride in style for awhile - he flew off but circled back onto our boat for a little while longer before finally flying off for good. He was a welcome passenger!!

I'm sitting topsides writing while the sun is shining and it is a beautiful warm afternoon after a morning filled with checking out and consolidating stores - Doug just installed our new screen doors in the pilothouse. We are meeting Dan and Carol (Lucky Stars) and Jim and Robin (Adventures) around 3:30 this afternoonto head over to the Marathon Seafood Festival and tomorrow there is a cocktail party on Gypsies before we head over to Docksides (the bar at the end of our dock here) to listen to the Florida Straits Band - who said anything about the party being over???? It's just ramping up....

Click here to see a Google map or our Marco Island location.

Click here to see a Google map of our Little Shark River location.

Click here to see a Google map of our Marathon location.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Boat People Invade 5th Avenue

If you ever wondered where all the money is on Florida's west coast, we've found it - it's in Naples! From extravagant homes with million dollar landscaping that line the Gordon Pass and the residential neighborhoods of Olde Naples to the diamond and art gallery encrusted 5th Avenue (no I'm not kidding - it looks like Rodeo Drive East), Naples is the playground of western Florida for the rich and famous....and for a couple days, the Gypsies.

Tammy here....

We have had a ball being boat people in Naples for the past several days - we have been docked at the city marina which is right next to one of our new favorite bars/restaurants called The Dock. The trip in from Sanibel gave us our first inkling that Naples was a different kind of place - as we came up the three miles of the Gordon River to our slip, we passed unbelievably beautiful homes that you generally only see in architectural digest and where the yearly landscaping bills have to cost more than our boat!!!

It seemed that each house got bigger and more ornate as we went...pools of all sizes and shapes, fountains and sculpture gardens lining the expansive patios, great turrets towering over the spanish tile roofs and always palm trees swaying in the breezes. We couldn't ogle as much as we wanted though due to the flurry of boat traffic in the channel - we happened to arrive on a sunny Sunday afternoon when every boater with more money than brains or boating skills was out in their go fast wanting to make a statement. The statement to us was to get off the waterway as soon as we could before some yahoo wanting to impress the 20 something on his bow in a thong lost his concentration and slammed into us at 40 knots!!! From what we've seen, boater's etiquette doesn't seem to exist in Naples - nor does the "well policed no wake zone" - yikes!

Once we got tied up at the docks, we were in dire need of a cold beer so we made our way to The Dock - a very funky bar/restaurant with an open air vibe that made us feel right at home.

After a great lunch, Colleen, Doug and I were off to explore Naples for the afternoon - not really knowing where to go we just sort of wandered around. The pizza place that Bob from September Song had told us about was closed so we figured that would be a treat for the next day. Somehow we made our way over to 5th Avenue which is a cross between 5th Avenue in NY and Rodeo Drive in LA - unbelievable stores (with prices to match) surrounded by swaying palms and flowering bougainvilla and hibiscus.

We people watched our way down one side of the street and back the other before heading off in search of a cold beer we could actually afford - surprisingly (or not) we found ourselves back at The Dock for happy hour!

Thinking to have a quiet evening on the boat after many days of DeFever rendezvous and post-rendezvous parties, we walked back to the boat only to find a trawler next to us in serious need of help getting into the slip. So of course as boaters, we immediately started working the lines to get them in - turns out they were a single screw engine and their bow thruster wasn't working - no wonder they needed a little help. We chatted for a few minutes thinking nothing of it but about 1/2 hour later the captain came over and invited us to (yup you guessed it) come over and have cocktails on their boat as a thank you for helping them out. So much for drying out....

We had a great time meeting Captain Tom, a very young 85 year old gentleman who loves to cruise so does as often as he can, while still balancing a 60 year marriage to a woman who really doesn't like boats that much. He cruises for about a week or two each month and then goes home for the rest of the time and he said it's been working that way for years - who can argue with that?? He cruises with a great gal named Di who handles lines, cooks and is wonderful - we hope to run into her in the islands somewhere on other boats she also crews for. Rounding out the party were Debbie and Mack who run one of Tom's marinas (we think) in Texas. What is so fun about this lifestyle is that despite not really being in the mood to party, we had a wonderful time getting to meet some really neat people - everyone has such interesting stories and it's always fascinating to hear how everyone came to be living this life!

The next day, after several boat tours on Gypsies for Tom and Di and helping them off with their lines - they were headed for Fort Myers Beach, we set out to do some more exploring of Naples. We walked down into the "historic section" which was really another shopping district just in slightly older buildings but the architecture and gardens with their overflowing fountains were very chic. We had another great lunch at the Olde Naples Pub which was not exactly what we expected upon hearing its name - instead of an old beer smelling, dark wood pub that immediately came to mind (our kind of place), we sat outdoors under a vine encrusted portico eating salads the size of a platter (burgers just seemed too mundane for such a place)!

Then it was off to the beach and the fishing pier - obviously we had hit it at spring break because the mass of humanity was something to behold!! Not wanting to linger too long, we continued our walk through a truly magnificent neighborhood with houses and gardens that each fought for your attention. Houses in peach, sage green and carmel with turrets and spanish tile roofs blended in behind wrought iron fences and gardens overflowing with fountains and statues - yet somehow it all worked without being too tacky or gaudy. The neighborhood led us back to 5th Avenue and so we walked the length of 5th Avenue again in our boating attire (tee-shirts, keens, ponytails, tattoos and earrings - yes Doug too) getting our share of stares along the way (maybe it just seemed like that!)

We found our way to Tin City (OK we thought it said Sin City from a distance...bummer) down along the water - it is an area of shops and restaurants in an old restored oyster processing plant and found a great little bar/restaurant called Pinchers Crab Shack just in time for happy hour. The 2 for 1 draft beers were welcome after the long walk and while normally Doug would have been the first to take advantage of the $6 dozen oysters, we were still stuffed from lunch and wanted to make sure we had plenty of room for pizza that evening!! After walking along the water for a time, we headed back towards the boat stopping in the Pickled Parrot for a drink (do you really think we could just walk by that one??) We stopped by the pizza place to get a menu and to see how late they would be open - no way were we going to miss out on pizza again! The pizza lived up to its reputation (thanks Bob!) - but I'm not sure I've ever been that stuffed before - well, maybe (although it could have had something to do with the cookie dough we ate afterwards) .... anyone stopping in Naples really does need to make a stop at Napoli's for pizza!!

The next morning we had a quick breakfast at the local cafe/market - they have a couple tables out on the sidewalk, local papers to read and pretty good food (although you are limited to four choices). Walking back to the boat, we heard two ladies on bikes yelling to us to stop - turns out one of them was Beverly Bangs, a friend from Kennebunk Beach, ME!!!!! It never ceases to amaze me what a small world we live in. We had a great time catching up and they came over to see the boat - it was great to see old friends especially in such an unexpected way!

We had a great steam yesterday to Marco Island where we are anchored in Factory Bay - we spent the afternoon soaking up rays on Gypsies watching all the boat traffic. The wind died down so our anchorage was incredibly still and peaceful, making for a great night. Today we woke to a spectacular sunrise and plan on dropping the dink and going exploring - its what we cruisers do!!

Click here to see a Google map of our location in Naples at the City Dock.

Click here to see a Google map of our location in Factory Bay off Marco Island.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

"Don't Stop the Rendezvous"

Some of us had so much fun at the DeFever Rendezvous in Useppa Island that we didn't want it to stop - so we went to Pelican Bay with about 10 other DeFevers and stayed and played for several more days!

Tammy here...

All good things have to come to an end Thursday morning bright and early, we waved goodbye from our bow to a convoy of DeFevers - first Wild Goose and Lucky Stars who left at the crack of dawn (I'm pretty sure that not all of the Gypsies were even up to see them leave) and then Aurora leading the way with Sea Pearl, Tide Hiker and Rickshaw close behind.

Aurora Leads the Way!

Getting in and out of Pelican Bay can be tricky given the skinny water but everyone maneuvered it safely and went on their respective ways to either head back home or keep following that wanderlust that grips us all and makes us want to explore new ports of call. And then there were only three DeFevers left....

After making plans for "one last cocktail party" (you'll see that this really wasn't the last one though) on Gypsies that night with Last Laugh and September Song, Colleen, Doug and I dinghied in to Cayo Costa State Park again for a "beach day!" We brought a picnic lunch (complete with a few coldies) in our backpacks and set off to explore the island. We headed over to the beach but detoured onto Cemetery Road and found a really cute little cemetery with palm trees, conch shells outlining the plots and several headstones dating back to the 1920's.

Then we hit the beach and walked for miles to the end of the beach where it joins a beautiful lagoon - the weather was sunny but windy so it really wasn't a "sit on the beach and read day" so we looked for shells and interesting wildlife along the way - we were not disappointed!! The beach was beautiful with its white sand made of crushed shells and the water was that turquoise shade of blue that appears in all island vacation commercials. The shelling was pretty cool too- we've started a "treasure collection!"

At the end of the beach as far as we could get from the rest of humanity, we set up our picnic lunch and had a view of the Gulf of Mexico on one side and the lagoon with its sand dunes on the other....what a great way to have lunch and a cold beer! Too soon it seemed we had to head back to Gypsies to get ready for the party - we had a great night with Bob and Stephanie from September Song (a member of the Marathon Gang of 12 that have become great friends) and Hank and Nancy from Last Laugh (that we just met at the Rendezvous). Cocktails, great food and stories flowed as usual and no one wanted to call it a night. We even got talked into staying an extra day to head over to Boca Grande on Gasparillo Island with Hank and Nancy (OK it didn't take too much convincing)...did I say, don't stop the rendezvous??

The next morning found us on our bow waving goodbye to September Song as they pulled anchor to head north for a little while - hopefully we'll meet back up with them in Marathon in a couple weeks to do a final reprovision before heading over to the Bahamas! Yahoo - Bahamas here we come! After our "Bahamas tutorial" with Steve and Di of Aurora, we can't wait to head over there!! But there was still more fun to be had in the States first, so shortly after September Song headed out, we hopped in the dinghy to go to Boca Grande with Nancy and Hank. They have a really big dinghy named Chuckles - a 14 1/2 foot Boston Whaler with a 50 hp motor (Doug has major dinghy/motor envy) - and were nice enough to offer to take one of the Gypsies with them. That meant Doug and I could get our dinghy (named Hobos) on plane for the 5 mile trip over to Boca Grande - what a fun ride!!! There was some chop in the inlet due to opposing tides and currents but we just flew across the water doing some serious wave hopping - Hank kept looking back to make sure we were OK and all he saw were sh_t-eating grins on our faces!! With 4 people in our dinghy usually, it is rare that Hobos ever can get up on plane and go that fast - she loved kicking up her heels!

It was also a beautiful day so the scenery along the way was awesome - there were beautiful deserted beaches and plenty of wildlife! We explored a few of the channels around Boca Grande and saw some gorgeous homes and boats, along with an old wooden fish pier/market.

We finally tied up to a little dock opposite the golf course and proceeded to explore the town. Nancy and Hank have been traveling to Boca Grande for many years so were wonderful tour guides!! We first walked through the Gasparilla Inn, an old, very quaint hotel with white/pink/green chintz furnishings in a grande old style and shells found on the local beaches everywhere.

In the Inn, we stumbled upon an exhibit regarding the large phosphate plant that had operated on the island until about 1979 but was very active as one of the deepest water ports on the west coast of FL during World War II - several of the large carrier ships that had visited the port were sunk by German U-Boats in 1942. That's one of the things I love about this trip - we are constantly learning, whether it be the history of the places we visit or just names/characteristics of plants, birds or animals that cross our path - we live in an ever evolving classroom (without the wicked teacher)!

The town of Boca Grande is in some ways a throw back to older, more gentile times - where the railroad used to run, there is a bike/pedestrian/golf cart path lined with local indigenous trees. The white shell/sand beach stretches for miles and is populated by families that have been coming to the island for generations. The downtown is a funky mix of art galleries, jewelry shops and cute little restaurants and outdoor cafes - I didn't see one tacky tee-shirt shop (thank you!!!) We ate lunch at the old railroad depot and had wonderful fresh grouper sandwiches sitting outside in a little garden pavilion. While the boys chatted on the tree lined sidewalks, the girls did a little window shopping - OK Colleen and I bought a few inexpensive pieces of jewelry but all Nancy got was a sticky bun at the local bakery for Hank!!

Too soon it was time to dinghy back to Gypsies and Last Laugh. Again we had a great ride - it had calmed down a little and we just flew back to Pelican Bay. Our boats had seemed to multiply while we were gone - the anchorage was significantly more full upon our return (although many of the newcomers were snailbotters so we knew it couldn't have been Gypsies and Last Laugh who had been naughty)!!

Our final night in Pelican Bay was really, yes really, the last cocktail party (at least for a little while) - this time aboard Last Laugh, which is a beautiful 1988 52 foot DeFever that has been lovingly restored and maintained. We got a tour of the boat and there were many things to ohh and ahh over! But we especially loved the company - we had a great evening complete with a beautiful sunset which was a very fitting way to end a fabulous day - Hank even blew the conch shell signifying the start of cocktail hour (we had gotten a bit of an early start though). Thanks so much Nancy and Hank!!!

Yesterday morning we headed out of Pelican Bay, sad to leave because we had so much fun there, but ready for new adventures. The first adventure was to get out of Pelican Bay without running aground - piece of cake - we always had at least 4 inches below our keel (we never had much more than that, but who needs more??) We had a great steam on the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway along with all the other go-fasts that were out on a sunny Saturday morning. We even had four dolphins play with us in our bow wake for a long time - Colleen got a video of them as they dove and flipped around and jumped out of the water really seeming to play with us!!! I love the dolphins - they truly are the cutest animals ever (short of our boat kitties that is!)

We anchored off of Sanibel Island and had a quiet afternoon on Gypsies soaking up the sun and enjoying the beautiful scenery that is Sanibel. This morning we rocked out early heading to Naples where we will be docked for two nights at the City Marina. We can't wait to explore Naples which we have heard so much about - we also need to clean the boat, fill up with water, do laundry, etc after being on the hook for 10 days (and you thought all we did was have fun....) Well we do seem to have a lot of that!!!

Click here to see a Google map of our location off Sanibel Island.