Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Christmas in the Keys

Christmas in the tropics can be a little surreal when the only thing white is the sand on the beaches, the parades all involve boats, and the temperatures rise into the 80's. Even the lights here are different with palm trees, dolphins, flamingos, and elf-eating alligators...and not a pine tree or a snowflake in sight. But it is still Christmas and still a time to be celebrated with friends [in lieu of family] and good food. Our Christmas Eve involved a 16lb prime rib [purchased the day before at the GFS Market in Key West] slowly rotating to perfection in the rotisserie while friends gathered on the boat and Rudolph led Santa's sleigh across the harbor sky...really. He flew right over us. We all saw it.

Christmas morning found us opening presents from care packages from home and I donned a bikini top while making the dressing for dinner. It was warm.

A huge celebration was held here at the marina sponsored by our harbormaster, Richard Tanner, and his wife Arla. About 250 boaters-away-from-home showed up and brought a dish to accompany the turkeys, hams, and potatoes provided. Jeff and I opted for a quieter dining experience and after making the rounds through the marina to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, we joined friends from Louisville who had their RV in a park just the other side of the 7-mile bridge for turkey and all the fixings.
So, it wasn't cold, and it wasn't white, but it was a very, merry Christmas.
We hope yours was too.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


I know all of you with snow, ice, and freezing temperatures will truly appreciate the latest "cold front" to make the news here in the Keys. It made it all the way down to 57 degrees overnight! Brrrrrr......
We are on the warming up side of it today and temps will rise to the mid- 70's.
The tourists and new arrivals have become very easy to pick out. They are the ones still sporting shorts and t-shirts while all the locals are walking around in long pants and are bundled up...although most of them are still wearing flip-flops.
In our defense, it does seem colder on the water and 57 is a little chilly to wake up to. Showering is a brisk experience and somewhat unpleasant once you come out of the hot water.
And it was in the high 80's just last week.
Cold is all about perspective.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Out of Order

I have been a little hard on my cell phone. The conditions here are not ideal for electronic devices. The salt air alone is quite treacherous. Then add to it wet dinghy rides, sand, and long drops from my pocket to the garage floor and you can imagine the toll it can take:

My poor phone has taken it's last abuse.
First, it would randomly power itself off. Then the screen wouldn't light up. Now, it refuses to power on at all.
So, if you've placed a call or a text in the last few days...I probably didn't get it.
But never fear! A new phone will soon be on it's way!
A nearly indestructible phone at that...
Hopefully it will be able to withstand life on the S/V Exposure.

It's the Samsung b2100 and it's considered a "tough" phone.
It also features an MP3 player, FM radio, and a built in flashlight.
We shall see just how tough it is.
Wish me luck.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Angela's Visit

My friend, Angela, and I share the same birthday [albeit hers came several years after mine] and we've known each other for at least 12 years now. She visited the S/V Exposure and the Florida Keys for the first time last week. She flew in from Dayton, OH, leaving the cold and dreary and arrived at FLL Thursday afternoon to temps in the high 80's and sunny skies. I met her at the airport with a refreshing, tropical drink and we spent the time on the way back catching up and getting reacquainted. We arrived in Marathon well past sunset and Jeff was waiting to ferry us back to the boat. I had planned ahead and made up a dish of stuffed shells topped with meat sauce before I left for the the only thing to be done was to pop it in the oven and enjoy a nice dinner on the boat.
The next morning we were up early [apparently we do that a lot here!] and while Jeff headed off to work, I took Angela on a tour of the harbor in the dinghy and then we headed out Sister's Creek for the beach. After a stroll on the beach, we decided we were hungry and headed back to get some lunch at Burdine's, a quaint waterfront eatery known for their their hand-cut french fries. After lunch, I decided that Angela's pale self had had enough sun so we opted for some indoor souvenir shopping and a quick stop at Daffy Doug's Discount Dollar. By then, Jeff was finished with work and we all went back to the boat to relax and enjoy the sunset. For the evening's entertainment, we decided to head to Castaway's by boat for some excellent sushi and great music by Dan Sullivan. Saturday morning, Angela and I headed to yoga and then the Stuffed Pig for a late breakfast.
The weather took a stormy turn for the worse as we headed back to the boat so we took the opportunity to take a bit of a nap until the rain stopped. Normally, Saturday night would mean music at the tiki hut but the weather just didn't accommodate. So, we had a tasty dinner of pork & sauerkraut on the boat and turned in early.
We woke up to a beautiful day on Sunday and decided to take the boat out for a spin. There was no wind to speak of, but the motor needed to be run and we needed diesel.
We picked up a few friends on the way out of the harbor and while at the fuel dock, a fishing boat pulled in and I managed to procure us several spiny lobsters for dinner.
I haven't mentioned it yet, but Angela is a great photographer and since we didn't want her skills or her camera going to waste, once we were out of the channel we launched her in the dinghy to take some photos of the boat under sail.
The photos turned out beautiful...don't you think?

It would have been a great time to see some dolphins swimming along with the boat, but unfortunately, the only wildlife we saw was one of the more illustrious [ read: thinks he's a viking. ] harbor residents had gotten completely plowed and decided to take his homemade boat for a spin.
We all got a huge laugh when he finally figured out where the "voices" were coming from and looked up to see our 37' sailboat circling his 10' dragon boat. We convinced him to hoist the sails for a photo op and then left him to his own devices. Don't worry. As hammered as he was, he dropped the sails, started the outboard and actually beat us back to the harbor.

On the way back to the ball, we dropped all our extra guests off at their respective's amazing how much driving the pump-out boat has improved Jeff's abilities to navigate this boat in tight places! Not that he was ever bad at it, but to watch him pull up right beside another boat while the other person jumps on or off is pretty spectacular.
Once we were securely tied up, and after another amazing sunset, it was time to prep the lobsters. I, off course, elected Jeff to do the dirty job of cleaning the spiny, little bugs...which involves separating the tails from the other bits and then using an antennae to devein. Ick.
After spending a little time under the broiler, the lobsters were delicious served with some buttered noodles, fresh steamed broccoli, and a bowl of hot, drawn just doesn't get any better. Yummy.

Monday brought us another beautiful day here, although Angela had reports that it had snowed back home. Her & I donned our tennis shoes and headed for the old 7-mile bridge. I had heard that if you walked it on a calm day with the sun high in the sky you could see rays and sharks...and we saw both!

We came across at least a dozen huge, spotted eagle rays, a couple of different rays, and one very large nurse shark.
Once we reached Pigeon Key, I sought out a shady spot while Angela very slowly, and very carefully traversed the somewhat suspect ramp that leads to the island. I told her not to look down, but she apparently couldn't help herself.
Then, since we walked to the island, it was mandatory that we walk back...and at high noon it probably wasn't the most fun Angela had. But we made it and then headed straight to Porky's for some sustenance and lots of iced tea! It was nice just to sit and peel the tennis shoes & socks off...although probably not proper restaurant etiquette.
Tuesday morning came way to soon and sadly it was time to take Angela back to the airport. But the fun wasn't over yet. We stopped at Robbie's and fed the tarpon and wandered the little shops, then made a stop at the Blue Marlin in Key Largo for huevos rancheros with chorizo, cuban toast, cafe con leche [cuban coffee], and fresh squeezed orange juice.
We made it to the airport without any delays, and although it took Angela a little more time than expected to make it back to Dayton...she did make it home safe and sound.
We think she might have caught a bit of Keys Disease while she was here and hope she'll come back soon!

All pictures by Angela Koch
Click on photos to enlarge...can you find the shark?