#32 March 2011 Cruising Chronicles The Florida Keys

This year's lost another page from the calendar and we spent it in the Florida Keys.   

<><>This is the end of the bright work.  Bill's finishing up our name boards under the shade of a coconut palm tree.
Just wondered if blonds have more fun!

 This specimen of architectural interest is on Key Colony Beach.  Note the arched copper roof over the boat house sheltering the huge power cat.  This view is from the canal side and the front of the house is pictured below.  The windows are port holes...or the port holes are windows.  Fresnel lens are in the lighthouse which is functional.  Between the crossed rusty anchors is a gargantuan manually operated windlass from times long ago.  Huge pieces of lumber were put through the 4 openings and 8 strong men walked in a circle around the windlass in a successful effort to raise the anchors.

We began our 2nd month in Marathon with another trip to Key West and this time, in search of a cultural experience, we took our bikes and ourselves on the Key West Transit riding with locals for the 50 mile trip. This trip was precipitated by a required visit to the Customs and Border Patrol Office for an "interview" that granted us cards to get back into the U.S. after returning from the Bahamas later this year. Having our bikes there was wonderful--we could quickly get to where we wanted to go and parking wasn't an issue. As usual, we struck up conversations with regional characters and had a blast. Just tooling around town on our bikes we clocked 20 very easy and description-defying miles.

A beautiful view captured while kayaking through Sister Creek leading from Boot Key in Marathon to the Atlantic Ocean.

Iguanas, unfortunately, are common sights in the Keys.  The morning that we left, this guy was climbing the piling and contemplating hitching a ride north with us.  I discouraged him with a boat hook and what a diver/swimmer they are!  Bill said I just missed my opportunity to have another pet!

Our next-slip-neighbor, Tom, is a hot dog cyclist from Annapolis so we tucked behind him on many challenging rides east and west of Marathon. He makes me work and I dare not get dropped so it's a great cardiovascular workout. We so love the Keys and riding mile after mile watching as the tropical beauty unfolds before us and breathing in the clean ocean air. We become mesmerized by the beauty of the clear waters, lush green mangroves and tall stately palms. I love stopping on the bridge over Vaca Cut and marveling at the cloudless sky; watching the tide rushing beneath the bridge as it changes direction every six hours day after day, as regular as clockwork; marveling at the graceful white heron who spreads its wings and effortlessly lifts off the ground. I wonder if those who see this on a daily basis could become jaded  and not see the beauty and wonder that is all around us every single day.

Each week I volunteered at the public library in an effort to give back to this community that we've eaten up (and literally THROUGH) during our time here. Really enjoyed working with Karen, librarian, and doted on the patrons. My favorite area was the children's books. When our children were growing up, how many times did I read Where the Sidewalk Ends; The Giving Tree; Green Eggs and Ham;  Goodnight Moon---ad infinitum---and listened as they read back to me? Re-shelving these books make the perfect opportunity to sit down, re-read, and reminisce. I loved seeing mothers bring their little children to the library, snuggle up with them in an easy chair and read---and to see them walk out the door with a bag filled with books almost heavier than they can carry. These little people were so precious, precocious, well-mannered and adorable! The questions they'd ask just made my chin drop! Their parents are definitely doing lots of things right! We've also enjoyed mixing with the locals in church, in their homes and at local community events. I feel that, when in a port, if we become acquainted only with other cruisers, our view of the area could easily be skewed. An affiliation with the residents is so enriching.
After leaving our marina heading south, we met some dock friends who'd gone to Grassy Key for lunch and we took a picture of them...
as they took a picture of us!

We've gone 528 miles on our bikes; have done some kayaking; returned to where the fish were biting with our friend, John, in his fishing boat; made great use of the lap pool; partied at more parties than I should enumerate; got most of the boat maintenance and spring cleaning done; attended the Community Concert Series; became Irish for a day as we celebrated with friends and St. Patty; met up with friends we've met along the way; but now it's time to move on.

Since we began cruising 2 1/2 years ago we've never stayed put this long---we were in Marathon almost 3 months.  Our intent was to stay a month which is our usual tenure in any one port. Each day at 5 o'clock on the dot, everyone gathers at 4 long picnic tables to rehash the day and solve the problems of the world. The diversity of this group in education, professions, and life experiences is extraordinary and even more so is their self-effacement. None of them wear their past as a badge. This is such a homogeneous and cohesive group where everyone is congenial, sincere, and truly caring for dock mates. There's no back-biting, gossip, aspersion---and when have I ever seen that in a group this large? Unfortunately, I've not found these attitudes even in a church or work place.This little marina community has the sweetest custom of tossing flowers into the water in the just-vacated slip as each boat departs heading north. Very bitter-sweet!  We looked  back on floating hibiscuses and bougainvilleas in our wake as we waved farewell to our Marathon Family.

We celebrated our wedding anniversary on our last night before we cast off our lines.  Way points were in the plotter for Islamorada, our anchorage for the night with Miami and South Beach being our last stops for this month.
Cafe Maroda

 North of Key Largo en route to Miami we were treated to a dolphin show!

                            So ends another day in the Florida Keys.

Bill and Laura Bender
Kindred Spirit III
Miami, FL


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