I've been away a while (not that anyone would notice... well, maybe the Wombat will). My wife ended up taking job in the PNW. That is a LONG way from SW Florida. Well, I took about all I could stand of the rain and pulled the kids out of school a bit early and decided the three of us were going to spend the summer (or longer) together and really bond. Best decision of my life, honestly.
We pushed out in June and flew down to the boat. It was actually in pretty good condition all things considered. But we still spent the next week or two outfitting her and gettnig everything working top notch.
We spent the mornings cleaning and fixing things and the afternoon doing anything but cleaning or fixing. After a couple of weeks and a lot of sweat, the boat was ready to go.
I had about had all of Fort Myers Beach that I could take.
THe focus was the Bahamas, but we wanted to stop by the keys on the way and spend more time there. THe sail down was perfect. It was a full moon and crystal clear skies. I made the boys stand watches with me until around 2:00 am when the popcorn finally ran out!
I have written about the sail down there before. It is not hard. Worst thing is the crab traps (which were not out at that time). I think it is like 120-130 nm and comfortable in everything but a west or NW wind (when it flat becomes VERY uncomfortable). None of that for us. We got hit by two squalls, and that was all. They were very short too. Basically, it was an AWESOME sail, a sign of things to come.
We raised Marathon that morning. Everyone was a bit beat and tired, but we managed. We stayed at Marathon Marina (by and far my favorite marina). I would suggest it for anyone interested. It is good for all winds except west. They are very friendly people and lots of good boaters.
From there it was nothing but fun. We snorkeled every day, went deep sea fishing, exploring in the dink, you name it. We saw a Leapoard Ray while snorkeling, countless barracudas and grunts and yellow fins, tangs, cuddlefish, a sea snake, many sting rays, manatees... I cannot even remember what else. A great place to go is the lighthouse off of Marathon. There are lots of mooring balls to grab and you can jump off the back of the boat and snorkely/dive to your hearts content. Water is 25+ visibility most of the time. In fact, it feels a little strage with the boat resting right over coral that you think you are going to hit (but have 10 feet under you still!!). Go early or you wont get a ball, just a warning. Also, the closer the balls ot the lighthouse, the more shallow. Up next to the lighthouse, much of the coral is bleached, so the best views are about 12-20 feet of water. Another thought or two: Watch out for jellys in they are swarming (Glen got stung... again...) and make sure you throw a few lines off the back. When the current kicks up, it really kicks up and holding onto the lines makes it safer and more enjoyable.
Mom and dad also came down to join us (as did my wife). Nothing but great times to report there too. Mom had not seen 'blue water' before or reefs or anything like that. SHe loved it. Dad had never snorkeled before and instantly fell in love with it. We cooked on the barbie almost everyday, ate like kings, etc.
One of the many highlights happened by chance. We had a boat pull up beside us with two couples on board. I thought I might haver recognized one of them, but was not sure. Turned out it was Howard Livingston and his wife. He decided to put on a little private concert for us and some of the cruisers and the kids were mesmerized. He is a great singer, for those that dont know him. Reminds me a lot of Buffett. Just as cool was the other couple he was with... the mayor of Key West and his wife. So we all partied together... cool, huh???
There is a lot more to tell when I can, but that's a start. We saw what seems like every square inch of the keys from Key West to Key Largo. I will continue when I get a chance.