We have officially departed the Keys and are now making our way to Fort Lauderdale. As we cruised away from the Keys, feelings of sadness and anxiousness creeped up on us. We spent the last two months in the the Keys and in a way it started to feel like home due to the familiarity and it was sad leaving, especially since we are very uncertain of the future cruising grounds.
We were moored in Boot Key Harbor the majority of the time in the Keys and were getting accustomed to the day to day life of the beach, playground, library, parks, exploring and boat repairs. Boot Key Harbor is like grand central station for cruisers with all the resources that a cruiser needs, making it very easy on you to delay your departure! We had some memorable experiences during our time in the Keys….here are just a few.
At the beginning of our time, we had a visit from the grandparents. We spent some time off the boat and with them at Tranquility Bay Resort in Marathon which was beautiful and relaxing. The pools, sand, tiki bar, and wonderful time spent with family was so nice, not to mention the free laundry and hot showers! We also were able to watch Clemson win the National Championship during this time and have since added a Clemson National Championship flag to our boat.
Thanks to a wonderful Christmas present from Uncle Chris and Aunt Rachel, we were able to visit the Dolphin Research Center. Bryan and I visited many years ago and swam with the dolphins (a very cool experience!) and it was fun to bring the girls back to see the dolphins and sea lions. They also had a splash zone which was a hit with the girls!
Avery and I visited the Turtle Hospital in Marathon with a homeschooling group. This was a neat experience to learn about how they rehabilitate the turtles and then release them when they are better. It was also another good lesson on littering and how trash hurts and can kill the turtles. This was extra special for both Avery and I because it was just the two of us….something that does not happen that much.
After advice from a number of people about the anchorage and mooring field, we decided to rent a car and drive to Key West for the day. We visited the Shipwrecker Museum, Eco-Discovery Center, Mallory Square for fire jugglers and finally made it back to our favorite restaurant, Blue Heaven. The food was just as good as it was 7 years ago when ate here. The girls danced in the sand to the band and we shared the best key lime pie I have ever eaten!!!
We had the surprise opportunity to meet back up with Jim and Debbie, who helped us in Socastee, South Carolina after hurricane Matthew swept through. You can read about that story here. They were vacationing in the Keys and called us and we were able to have lunch with them. They are such kind and caring people….one of the best parts of cruising is the people you meet and the seemingly random relationships that are formed.
After leaving Boot Key Harbor, we anchored off of Bahia Honda State Park for four days and meet up with some new friends who were also cruising with their two kids ages 2 and 1. This was truly one of the most idyllic times we had in the Keys…..the sunsets, snorkeling, beaches, wildlife and adult conversations while the kids played was soooo relaxing and nice. Bryan caught his first lobster and all four of us had a surf and turf meal with evening on the boat. The kids were fascinated by catching snails on the sea wall at the park and having a close encounter with a manatee.
We celebrated Avery’s Birthday on the last day we were in the Keys while anchored off of Rodriguez Key near Key Largo. I will admit, I was feeling guilty that we did not have a “party” planned like in years past and it was just the four of us. Avery wanted chicken wings for her birthday meal, so we were lucky to be able to dingy up to a nice open air restaurant where she got her chicken wings, a Shirley temple, and brownie cake, as well as a kite and scooter. It was all very low key, but at the end of the day, she surprised me with a sweet note (with her Daddy’s help) that made my heart melt even more for my sweet and thoughtful girl.
We also started our bracelet making endeavor called Blessing Bracelets while in the Keys. We have sent over 30 bracelets out to South Carolina, New York, Kentucky, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Montana!! You can read more about them here and let me know if you would like one or if you would like me to send one to someone you know.
Our sights our now set on the Bahamas and it is overwhelming the amount the preparation that we need to do. I have started a working document of all the different information we need to do or know….medical, documentation, spare parts, provisioning, communication, etc. We are waiting out some weather in Miami and hope to be in Fort Lauderdale by the end of the week to seriously start our Bahamas prep. So I guess we are now officially Bahamas Bound!