Friday, February 6, 2004 - Key West, FL to Marathon, FL
We loved Key West so very much! But... after a week, you start to notice the not-so-pretty parts (the many drunks, homeless, goofballs! etc) and we were ready to move on to new territory!
On our second attempt to depart Key West, we were better prepared for the rough waters (everything was much more secure this am - including the salon TV!) Although it was a bit smoother out today - coast guard called it "choppy" - we thought it was that and more! Near 4-5 ft seas all the way to Marathon. We were glad to get there after 3 1/2 hours at sea!
We had a quick lunch at the outdoor bar next door where we met "Rick" - a fellow Michigander (Traverse City) who was recruited to help wash the boat! Later, the Ely family arrived on "Vibe" to dock next to us at Fero Blanco. We enjoyed a delightful dinner with them at Annette's ... discovered we had a number of things in common, including time spent at Anchorage Marina in Holland, MI! Small world on the water, as we have noticed before.
On Saturday, we rented a car and Tom drove me to Miami to catch a flight back to Atlanta [I was headed to a Foremost Sales Mtg in TN for the week]. Capt Tom returned to the boat to await his next crew member and Pru friend, Alan, who was scheduled to arrive Monday from NJ.
Sunday, February 8, 2004 - Marathon, FL to Duck Key, FL
Cap Tom decided to move the boat on his own today - just a few miles up the ICW to a beautiful spot, Hawk's Cay, on Duck Key.
Alan arrived on Monday, and the two of them spent some time working on the boat in preparation of their next two trips up the ICW.
Tuesday, February 10, 2004 - Duck Key, FL to Key Largo, FL
Tom and Alan traveled without incident to Key Largo. Cap Tom was quick to point out that he negotiated "Crash Corner" without any problems at all! (Even Alan, a master captain himself, remarked how well Tom handled the boat... of course, the Cap was very pleased to hear that!) Alan was a great help on this segment, since he was very familiar with the Key Largo waters from his fishing days here.
Once in Key Largo, the guys took advantage of their free time - rode bikes in the area - stopping to see the African Queen (onsite in Key Largo) and the boat featured in the movie, On Golden Pond. Later, they were pretty geared up to have dinner at "Coconuts" where they heard it was ladies night ... but they hadn't been told that the average age of the "ladies" would be over 65!
Thursday, February 12, 2004 - Key Largo to Ft Lauderdale, FL
Cap Tom and Asst. Cap Alan traveled from Key Largo to Ft. Lauderdale via the ship's channel. The sheer size of the yachts docked along the route was pretty incredible. Not just the cruise ships docked at Ft Lauderdale, but the private yachts as well. The most impressive one spotted was "Aussie Rules" - a 257 ft yacht - reportedly owned by golfer, Greg Norman. Docking at Pier 66 in Ft Lauderdale, "CrawDads" seemed to shrink a bit in comparison with the surrounding boats!
On Friday, another of our Pru friends, Priscilla and friend Jean flew their private aircraft from Cape Cod (via NJ) to pick me up in Gainesville, GA and we continued on to Ft Lauderdale. What a thrill it was for me to ride with them! (I haven't been in a co-pilot's seat since my Grandpa Van had his plane some 35 yrs ago!) We had a beautiful flight, and arrived in Ft Lauderdale just after sunset, where Cap Tom was waiting for us. After we all got settled aboard, we went out for a seafood dinner - and called it a night!
Saturday morning we were up early to get a head start to the Miami Boat Show. Our friends at Tiara had provided some passes (Thanks, Sue!) so we were eager to see their new models as well as some old favorites, Carver, Marlow and Selene. Later, I met up with Sue to do some real shopping on Lincoln Road and the others caught up with us for dinner at Cafe Nexx.
We had planned to depart Ft Lauderdale on Sunday, but the weather was not good - so we decided to remain at Pier 66 another day and see some more of the Boat Show. At least, Tom and Jean wanted to see some more of the show... Priscilla and I opted for the serious shopping on Lincoln Road. We all gathered later for dinner and a stroll along South Beach in Miami... that's entertainment in itself!
Monday, February 16, 2004 - Ft Lauderdale to Del Ray Beach, FL
We returned the rental car in the morning (Ouch! at the rates during the Boat Show!) and geared up for our ride to Del Ray Beach. It was a beautiful day for cruising the ICW. We all enjoyed seeing the gorgeous homes along the water and the incredible yachts parked out in front of the gorgeous homes! Amazing...
Jean enjoyed working as Cap Tom's first mate/navigator, while Priscilla and I held down the aft deck of the boat - getting some much needed sun.
As we approached Del Ray Beach, Jean was able to reach some of their friends, Sally & Madge, to come meet us at the dock and carry us by car to dinner at Roadhouse Grill. We were entertained at dinner by Sally and Jean's stories of fishing, flying and fly fishing!
Tuesday, February 17, 2004 - Del Ray Beach, FL to N Palm Beach, FL
We had a significant weather change today - it was chilly as we left Dey Ray Beach and we saw some rain as we approached N Palm Beach. But the sights between our ports today were still beautiful. We were especially impressed by the Boca Raton Club and The Breakers in Palm Beach. Beautiful.
After our arrival in Soveral Harbor Marina, Priscilla and I needed to "stretch our legs" so we went for a walk toward Prosperity Mall...while Cap Tom and Jean tucked the boat in for the evening. Later, we had an enjoyable dinner at La Trattoria where we tried to impart as much of our Great Loop Cruise knowledge to Jean and Priscilla...they are scheduled to do this very cruise in 2005. We wish them luck .. look forward to joining them aboard their boat sometime on their Loop Tour. We have certainly enjoyed having them aboard - as "crew" they were very helpful and very, very entertaining!
Wednesday, February 18, 2004 - N Palm Beach to Ft Pierce, FL
Jean and Priscilla left early in the morning, and we got a relatively early start to our next destination, Vero Beach. It hardly seems possible that we are within 300 miles of our final destination, Amelia Island...
The wind was brisk as we left the dock this morning. Soveral Harbor Marina has an unusual configuration of slips which makes maneuvering in and out of the Harbor quite difficult with a large boat. But, Capt Tom once again proved his nautical prowess and brought us out to the ICW without a scratch!
Ft Pierce City Marina was located within a few blocks of the downtown are so, once we were settled at the dock, we set off on foot to do some exploring. The town seemed to be on the verge of a major restoration - nearly every shop was undergoing a facelift or complete overhaul. We enjoyed an early dinner at Meg's.
Thursday, February 19, 2004 - Ft Pierce to Melbourne, FL
We arrived early into Melbourne this morning, so we took advantage of the pretty day and walked around the quaint downtown area. After a light lunch, we did some antique hunting there. Later, while Cap Tom did some charting, I took a long bike ride in search of real shopping...but was without success.
At the end of the Melbourne City Marina was a Chart House restaurant, so we had an easy dinner there.
Friday, February 20, 2004 - Melbourne to Titusville, FL
Such a smooth ride today - a bit overcast and still a bit chilly - but no wind! so the ICW was just like glass. We cruised at a pretty fast clip today since the conditions were so good. We are always amazed at the number of dolphins we see in the ICW - they just love to play in the wake of the boat - and they are sooo graceful. Today they seemed to be moving in slow motion, just gliding across the top of the water - just beautiful in their form.
As soon as we were secured at the dock, we hopped into a shuttle van to head off to see the Kennedy Space Center. We had to hurry through the tour, but we still got to see quite a bit of the facility, and had time to take in one of the IMAX movies. Quite impressive - it really gives you more insight to the NASA accomplishments in the last 40 years. The Space Center is surrounded by a wildlife preserve, so we saw several alligators, armadillo, turtles and a huge eagles' nest too!
Later, our driver took us to the seafood restaurant that is all the talk of Titusville...if we had not seen it for ourselves, we would not have believed it! Dixie Crossroads - home of the infamous rock shrimp - was quite a place! It had a packed house - some 400+ customers! - live music, even face painting for the kiddies! Unbelieveable!
Saturday, February 21, 2004 - Titusville to Daytona Beach, FL
Another beautiful ride on the ICW today. The cool morning air gave way to a warm, humid breeze as we headed north. Cruising slowly through the Lagoon, we were intrigued by our natural surroundings...so many birds, and dolphins so close you could practically pet them. Fishermen were out in numbers this morning - some even wading out to their spot in such shallow water that it appeared they were "walking on water."
Approaching Daytona, we were surrounded by the "weekend warrior" - small speedboats and kids on bumper tubes! A typical Saturday afternoon in Florida.
In the afternoon, we took a long bike ride along Daytona Beach and marveled at the number of Harley Davidson riders that were here - a week early for "bike week." Yikes!
Sunday, February 22, 2004 - Daytona Beach to St Augustine, FL
Once we arrived, we realized again how much we love St Augustine! Our early arrival allowed us to enjoy a leisurely day in town. Had a quick lunch and just spent some time strolling along the historic district - shopping and just enjoying the day. This town has so much character...it soothed us perfectly today.
As the day wore on, the reality that our trip was truly ending hit us pretty hard... we both settled into quite a melancholy mood by evening. We decided not to go to dinner - but just to sit and enjoy the boat, the harbor and each other. We will miss this.
Monday, February 23, 2004 - St Augustine to Jacksonville, FL
Well - this is it! We're Looped! As we passed mile marker #88 at the intersection of the ICW and the St Johns River near Jacksonville, CRAWDADS has officially* COMPLETED THE LOOP!
*Last April, we took delivery of our boat from Jacksonville - and that is where we are returning it to have some "prepping and primping" done before we take her one last stretch into Amelia Island - where she will stay until she finds a new owner...
Our emotions ran very high today - a whole mixed bag of them. We felt great excitement and a tremendous sense of accomplishment as we completed this journey.... but there is also a bittersweet sense of sadness that comes with the close of an adventure this big. We will miss the freedom of life on the water, and the sense of belonging that found within the boating community everywhere we went... but we have made many friends and incredible memories! Thank you all for following us.