Monday, June 10, 2013

Home in Marathon

Building murals, some as elaborate as these, are found throughout the Keys.

Once secured at Marathon, we have kept a low profile.  Bud has been attentive to his wounds, and I have been updating our blog site.  In addition, we have been optimizing some of the systems aboard Layla; we have been gaining more experience on the SSB, learning the ins-and-outs of our autopilot, monitoring our energy usage with and without the freezer, learning more about solar power, and expanding Layla’s wireless networking capabilities.  More to come in a future blog.

Bud's finger is healing nicely.

 And so is his toe, after dropping the old transmission on it over three months ago.
Marathon has been an interesting stopping point, as it is very cruiser friendly.  There are 225 or so mooring balls in the harbor, along with a scattering of anchored vessels.  When we arrived, it was approximately at 75% capacity, and as the days progressed, we found the number of neighbors dwindling.  The amenities are great; they provide a daily cruisers’ net on VHF, providing help and support to the cruising community, there is a workshop area to work on projects with lockers for a fee, there is a Laundromat and showers, and a great big boaters lounge with two TV stations, a book exchange library, four charging areas, and wireless internet throughout. 

 Looking south from our mooring ball through the harbor.

  Looking north from our mooring ball through the harbor.

Besides finding the best hardware store in the area, Specialty Hardware, we have found some time to enjoy the area.  We did get a chance to spend a day in Key West, traveling by bus, giving us an opportunity to share a beer with my dad at Sloppy Joe’s (we have a picture of him there as a Navy recruit over 70 years ago), and spread mom and dad’s ashes at the southern-most beach in the US.  We also had an opportunity to experience the dragon boat races here in Marathon.  Maybe not as well attended as in Atlanta, but just as spirited, if not more.  Just before the end of the stone crab season, we bought 20 stone crab claws and some beer at Pinchers Perch and cracked away as the sun set to the west.

We made it to Key West.

The Key West lighthouse.

A taste of the local color in Key West.

 Cats seems to have special privileges in Key West.

 We saw many trees as big as this one while in Key West.

We made it to the starting point of Hwy 1, mile marker 0.

We also made it to the southernmost point in the continental US.

Mom and dad at the southernmost beach in the continental US.

 And a drink to dad at Sloppy Joe's.

Dad with his drinking buddies at Sloppy Joe's over seventy years ago.

 Dragon boats lined up for the races on Sombrero Beach.

Teams prepping for the first dragon boat race.

 One by one, making their way to the starting line.

We were fortunate to be in the Keys for the stone crab season.
Crab traps piled deep and high, waiting to be deployed.

 And fishing boats lined up after a day of fishing.

 Above the bar at Pincher's Perch.

The remains after a meal at Pincher's Perch.

 Looking west at sunset from Pincher's Perch.

We also have had many opportunities to see nature at its wildest.  One afternoon while chilling in the cockpit, we heard the distinctive noise of a dolphin blowing through its blowhole, immediately followed by splashing right next to the boat.  I got up to find a dolphin chasing its prey through the harbor.  The poor fish did not have a chance, as the dolphin was so fast, but it still tried as hard as it could to seek cover under our boat.  The dolphin swam at the surface the length of Layla upside down, almost looking into our eyes as we watched with amazement.  We watched the show for over 10 minutes, until the dolphin decided the game was over, and then started butting the fish with his nose, and then picking it up in its jaw.  I am sure you can imagine how the game ended….  I am both sad and happy to report that we don’t have any pictures of this interaction; sad that I didn’t capture the moment on ‘film’, but happy that I was able to watch the whole show without distraction.

 A tern holding steady on a buoy next to our mooring ball.

 A white heron visitor to Layla one early morning.

 An iguana looking for hand outs at Marker 88 Restaurant.

 A ghost crab hiding in the grass on our way to Publix.

 One of the many roosters we saw in Key West.

Colorful butterflies and birds at the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory.
We also made one more trip back to Georgia and North Carolina to finalize Bud’s departure from UGA, and move his office belongings back to NC.  The trip was a world wind tour encompassing over two thousand miles, entailing shuttles, planes, moving trucks, and cars.  I was not prepared for my emotions as we packed up Bud’s office, feeling a sense of loss as we closed this chapter in our lives.  Bud, on the other hand, is feeling better than he has felt in years; feeling the weight lift off his shoulder with each passing mile away from Georgia towards our new lives in North Carolina.

 Bud packing up his office.

 Bud packing up the moving van.

  Good bye Georgia.

 Hello North Carolina.

You may think that we have been having too much fun lately, as we haven’t had to repair anything on Layla for quite some time.  Well, that is not exactly true.  We did get some help from our cruising buddies on The Fishers Hornpipe, replacing a couple of lights on our mast.  The cost for the help:  a pork tenderloin dinner and a couple of beers.  And just prior to the trip to GA and NC, we started noticing that Zoe was taking on water.  What could have been a really frustrating several days without our vehicle to get from Layla to the dock and back again, turned out to be a perfect opportunity to have the dinghy repaired while we were on our trip.  We left leaky Zoe at the dinghy dock to catch the shuttle to the Miami airport, and came back a week later to find her water tight again, exactly in the same spot we left her.

Andrew, from Fishers Hornpipe, being hoisted up Layla's mast to change some bulbs for our navigation lights.

To our amazement, a month and a half has already passed since arriving in Marathon.  It is time to move on.  We have decided to spend the remainder of the hurricane season back in North Carolina, giving us an opportunity to work on the house, Layla, and Zoe, along with all the other necessary duties before heading out again next fall…..this time we hope for good.  Unlike the trip down to the Keys, we hope to make as many outside runs as we can on our way back, hopefully getting a bit of a boost from the Gulf Stream and doing some fishing along the way.  We will keep you posted when opportunities present themselves.

 A rainbow over Boot Key after one of the many torrential downpours we had while at the harbor.

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