Monday, May 30, 2011

Denise & Kelly, a Cannon, and High Adventure on the Way Back from a Key

Alright, so it's a long title, but how many ways can you say, "We had company again, and everyone had a great time!" in five words or less, and still be clever.

Besides, I love alliteration.
But I digress.

Our latest batch of company, Jeff's Mom, Denise, and her husband, Kelly, arrived in the Keys the Monday after Mother's Day. They drove into town in the early afternoon and we were happy to see both of them. It had been a year since Denise had been to the boat, and quite a bit longer for Kelly. We ferried them out to the sailboat and gave them the grand tour of the big remodel, then settled in the cockpit for cocktails and conversation. They had had a big day of traveling starting early in the AM, so we made it an easy and early night by walking across the street to Annette's for a fabulous dinner.

The next morning, Kelly and I set off in the dinghy to return the rental car, do a bit of provisioning, and procure some breakfast. Once back, we spent a nice relaxing day on the boat. Lunch was light and yummy, with ham salad, cheese and crackers, and chips and dip.

We took an afternoon tour of the nearby creek and up into the mangroves and when evening approached, we loaded back into the dinghy and headed for Dockside Bar & Grille.

It was open mic night, and we had lots of friends [some with guitars] in attendance. Jeff got up on stage and sang a couple of songs...I even helped out on one, and it was a great time.

Wednesday morning dawned bright and early just as it always does. We enjoyed tea/coffee to start off the day and then moved on to mimosas made with prosecco and peach nectar. It ended up that we had another friend, Mike Ritner from Madeira Beach, arrive in town and we invited him and our friend Matthew out to the boat. Soon it was lunchtime and we went by boat to Burdine's.

Then it was back to the sailboat for a little relaxing before sunset. We had a big plan for sunset tonight, and Kelly was very excited.

He was going to get to fire a real, live cannon!

Let me explain. Around here, sunset can get very noisy. It's an event. Some people choose to blow the conch horn as the sun gently sinks into the sea. Others play trumpet. Bagpipes are not unheard of. But others, fire cannons. No ammo, no cannon balls. Just a big, loud, black-powder BOOM! I had talked to one of our harbor's more infamous cannon masters and asked if we could come over with our company and participate. He was thrilled to have us and further more stated that Kelly could do the honors himself.

Nearing sunset, we motored over to the S/V Gypsy Song, where Jake and Amy graciously invite us aboard. There were cocktails and appetizers and then it was time to prepare the cannon.

The black powder was loaded.

A direction was decided upon.

The sandbag was strategically placed to keep the cannon from kicking itself overboard.

Looks like we're all set!

Kelly followed Jake's careful directions and waited patiently to light the fuse.

Jake shouted a courtesy warning of, "Fire in the hole!" to alert other boaters of the impending explosion, and Kelly lit the fuse.

There was a moment of pause...then the BOOM! And when the smoke cleared, one of the neighbor's waved his white flag and kiddingly pledged his surrender.

After the big event, we were off to Dockside to meet Matt and Mike for dinner.

Now, you think something like that would be hard to top, but we had an even bigger plan for Thursday.

We were going to Molasses Key.

Once again, Kelly and I headed to shore to pick up the provisions we would need for the day: a bucket of fried chicken and 5-hour energy drinks.

Upon our return, we loaded everyone in the dinghy, including the dog, and headed out of the harbor. On the way, we stopped at Burdine's to fill up on ice and fuel and then we ventured out into the waters surrounding the 7-mile bridge.

It was a very calm day with almost no chop at all and we soon had the uninhabited Key in our sights.

We had planned for friends Andy and Suzi to meet us at the Key and we saw them in their much bigger power boat on the way.

We arrived at the island and waded into shore with all of our things.

We picked an absolutely beautiful day to sit around on an island and do nothing!

At some point, we'd eaten and drank, floated and waded, about as much as we could and it was time to head back to civilization.

We had decided that we would all ride in Andy's bigger boat and tow ours just to make better time on the way back in.

It ended up being a really good decision!

As we were traveling east alongside the bridge, we noticed what appeared to be a bit of weather looming in front of us. The horizon was dark and every now and again you could spot a crack of lightning. Andy picked up the pace a bit, but was definitely held back by our behemoth of a dinghy trailing behind us. Jeff offered to jump in the dinghy so that the rest of us could get back faster but we decided to just wait and see. Within minutes, the wind picked up, the water got rough, and big waves crashed over the bow...drenching everyone. Now fortunately, the water temperatures around here are very similar to bathwater so it wasn't cold nor too uncomfortable. I worried about about Jeff's Mom as she hunkered on the floor to try to avoid a bit of the spray and not take quite as much of a beating as the boat pounded through the waves.
I figured she may not speak to us after this adventure!

But she was a trooper and took it all in stride. When in Rome, right?

We all arrived at Andy and Suzi's safe and sound, wet and salty.
The storm had completely blown over and the sun was shining.
We loaded back into our dinghy which had remained astoundingly dry during it's wild ride and headed home.

Hot showers were had by all and we capped off our night with a lovely dinner at Castaway's.

The frontpage of the next day's paper called the storm we came through, "a mini tornado" and sited some of the damage done by the big blow as two opposing fronts collided over Marathon.

The next morning was time for Denise and Kelly to leave and it was very sad to see them go.

The time just flew by while they were here!

Bags were packed and brought to shore and we enjoyed a parting breakfast at the Stuffed Pig before seeing them on their way.

We really do enjoy having you guys come and stay.

I am not sure how we'll ever top this visit, but when you come back again we'll sure give it a try!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

An Island of Our Own

After the April 18th Tax deadline, the accountant -Roddy McDowell - that has done Jeff's taxes for the past 15 years gave Jeff a call and said he really needed to get away and were we up for some company.

Aren't we always up for more company?

Roddy spent time on the boat back in 2007 when he joined us in Captiva with the intentions of sailing with us to St. Petersburg. Our itinerary did not go according to plan with motor problems preventing us from traveling any further than Venice. The motor died as we limped into a slip at The Crow's Nest - never to start again. Roddy called a friend and abandoned ship while we dealt with mechanics and made arrangements to be towed to a boatyard.

For this trip, Roddy and his traveling companion, Carla, didn't get to do any sailing except around our mooring ball. Jeff went and picked them up at the docks and brought them back to the boat where we had a nice time lounging in the cockpit enjoying the view. After a bit, we set off in the dinghy so they could see Sombrero Beach and then we ventured into the mangroves of Whiskey Creek. Once back on the S/V Thin Line, we had a little snack of brie and summer sausage and made plans to meet for dinner. We decided on The Wreck up on Grassy Key. Dan Sullivan was playing, which always makes for a nice time.

The next day, Roddy and Carla came back to the boat for a bit of relaxing and then they left for Key West to see the sights. The following day, they were back to Fort Lauderdale to catch a flight home...a very quick trip indeed.

In the meantime, friends, Tony and Anne Baker from St. Pete, arrived on the scene. With them came their spotty dogs, Calvin and Chloe, and their 13 ft. Boston Whaler.

We first got to lay eyes on the couple and their adorable pups when they semi-circumnavigated the island and pulled up to the sailboat. With everyone on board, we gave a quick tour of the boat and then spent time catching up over a cocktail.

Then it was time for the Baker's to head back to their hotel and us to dinner @ The Wreck.

The next day, Tony and Anne and the spotty dogs did a bit of exploring the nearby waters. A little before sunset they came to the marina...this time by car. We relaxed on the boat for a bit and then we set off for Dockside for a bit of dinner and some live entertainment.

We had big plans for the next day!

We were going to visit Molasses Key...

Located out in the waters crossed by the Seven Mile Bridge, Molasses Key is a small uninhabited island with a nice, beachy surface on one side.

Although it wasn't the most comfortable ride, the Whaler's 50 horsepower motor got us through the choppy water.

I spotted a giant sea turtle along the way, but there was just no way to fish out the camera for a picture.

Upon our arrival, we had the whole beautiful, little island all to ourselves!
We made quick work of spreading out towels and unloading coolers and then it was time to RELAX!

The dogs caught on quick.

And that's what we did all day long.
We had snacks. We had drinks. We had shade. We had a lovely breeze.

We didn't have it to ourselves for very long.
A family on jet skis arrived and took up on the other end of the isle. Then a boat here and there. Even so, it was a pleasant way to spend an afternoon.

Eventually, we ventured back to the harbor. The Baker's headed back to their hotel to get cleaned up and then we all met at Castaway's for a bit of dinner.

It was great seeing Tony and Anne and the dogs again. We hope they come back soon and often!