Tuesday it was windy, mostly cloudy and a bit chilly. We borrowed a couple of kayaks and headed out towards Little Sister Creek - a little water way that we usually pass on the way to the beach. Phillip and Coleen were in a two person kayak and I had my own. We had a wonderful time exploring and found our way through some very tight spots ducking under a canopy of branches that were covered with nasty looking brown crabs. It was actually nice in the creek as the mangroves did a nice job protecting us from the wind. We ended up in a very shallow open area and very nearly lost sight of where we exited, wondering if we would find our way back :-) We had a wet cold ride across the harbor and then tucked ourselves in for the night - out of the dreadful cold wind.
Wednesday it was actually a beach day! We had temps in the upper 60's and bright sun. We packed up a picnic and took the dinghy to the beach. Once again it was a cold, windy ride but once we were at the beach we were protected from the wind and all was good. We had a wonderful lazy time.
Thursday I got up very early and rode my bicycle to the Marathon airport to pick up a rental car. Now that was a cold, windy, hard, long ride - but after being so lazy I needed the exercise. I managed to get a rental car for $15 a day! I hurried back and picked up the kids and we headed out for a trip to Key West.
Marathon is at mile marker 49 and we were headed to the infamous mile 0! It was a lovely ride across the bridges - although the actual highway itself is not very picturesque. The whole thing sort of reminds me of a strip mall. It's pretty ugly along the highway - only the views from the bridges make it a neat trip.
We arrived around 11 a.m., found a decent parking spot and had a nice walk in the Historic Seaport district. We could see the Key West anchorage in the distance - and I do mean distance! That anchorage is really far away from land! I seen now why more boats stay in Marathon - a protected harbor.
The waterfront is lined with restaurants, marinas and a few gift shops. Overall a nice walk - especially for boat viewing. We headed over towards the main drag -- Duvall street and spent a few hours looking around. We toured the Key West Museum, had lunch at the famous -- Sloppy Joes which Coleen did not enjoy as she thought the live music was too loud. Unfortunately a crabby Coleen did not make a for a fun lunch.
After lunch we grabbed the car and drove around a bit with no particular destination in mind. We happened upon Fort Taylor State Park and decided to check it out. It was a pretty cool old fort used during the Civil War and all the way through World War II. The fort itself was in rough shape (we've been to lots of forts :-) but the view - well breathtaking! The park has the most beautiful beach too! Definitely a place where I'd like to spend an entire day.
After leaving the park we headed over to Sunset Pier to watch the sunset celebration. Every evening they have a variety of street performers do their acts just before sunset. We saw an escape artist/comedian and a juggler/dog show. Coleen had a her chance at show biz as she assisted with the dog act. Now after all that we actually missed the sunset as did everyone else - as a huge cruise ship was departing the harbor and blocked the whole thing. Well no worries for us - as we see a sunset over the water almost nightly - but a bunch of other folks were hugely disappointed.
We then had chocolate dipped key lime pie on a stick as an appetizer. Hey we're on vacation! Key West was even more beautiful in the dark. We spent a couple of hours exploring the shops and making what seemed like a monumental decision on where to eat dinner :-) Phillip needed to watch the National Championship football game - so we need a spot with a t.v., Coleen needed mozzarella sticks - and me - well I just wanted to be outside even though it was cold.
Finally we settled on Flanagan's - a place we had walked past 3 times :-) The food was ok, but we had a huge screen tv and a heater nearby. I enjoyed watching all the activity on the street - while Phillip enjoyed the football game - and Coleen struggled to stay awake. We finally had to leave before half time and drive back to the boat. By the time we arrived it was 4th quarter and Phillip listened to the end of the game on the ESPN website. We could not pick it up on the carl radio --- although it might have been broadcast in Spanish and we just couldn't tell :-)
Friday - we got up early headed to shore, and rented some snorkel gear/wet suits for the kids, grabbed a few quick groceries and headed back to the boat. The wind had finally calmed down, it was supposed to be 70 degrees and we were going to take our chances at the reef.
Of course the best laid plans.... I couldn't get the darn boat engine started. Finally it was determined that I was out of fuel. Now this did not seem possible as I had put 5 gallons in the tank before I went out to the reef on New Year's Eve. It's only 6 miles - round trip. I have a small suspicion that they pumpout boat inadvertently got my fuel! Anyway we eventually sorted it out and got out of there around 11:30 a.m.
I gave Phillip the helm once we were out of the channel. He and Coleen had lots of laughs pretending we were a pirate ship. We had the most beautiful blue sky, the water was almost calm, and visibility was amazing. Within an hour we were tying up to the mooring ball at the reef. The kids managed to snag it on the first try. We donned our gear and headed out in the dinghy. The water was a chilly 70 degrees, but it was so flat calm we could see the bottom even from the dinghy!
We had the most wonderful time snorkeling. We had Coleen in the middle and we all held hands dragging the dinghy along with us. Coleen was not scared this time - maybe because she had her big brother along - and also because it was so calm. We stayed in the water for about an hour and then headed back to the Glass Slipper for a rest, some lunch - and my cup of hot tea. We had a little motion from the swells, but not too much and the sun was very bright! After lunch we snorkeled for another hour and then it started to get a bit too chilly for me. Thankfully, I had a nice sun shower waiting for us - and we had some nice warm water for a quick rinse off on our return to the boat.
Once again I let Phillip take the helm. I took advantage of our hot water from running the engine to do a few dishes. Soon I heard Phillip shouting "dolphins". It was his first time seeing them. Coleen and I ran out to look. I took the helm so Phillip and Coleen could go the the bow. We had one swimming directly in front of our bow. The kids were so excited I engaged the autopilot and joined them on the bow. It was so beautiful. The water was so clear we could see every detail of that dolphin and periodically he would jump in the air. Way cool!
When we finally arrived back at our mooring I sent the kids to shore for a shower while I made dinner - barbecue beef (pressure cooker style), mashed taters and fresh green beans. Then we headed over to our friends on the trawler to try out Phillips Christmas present - a new Wii game.
Today - we had a birthday party for Coleen which I am still amazed we managed to pull off. We woke up to a 20 knot north wind and rain. I let the kids sleep in while I returned the snorkel gear, and ran errands for the party. It was supposed to be outside at the park - but we ended up having it inside the boaters lounge tucked in a corner by the ice freezers. It was a joint party with another girl who was turning 10. Somehow it all worked out, and we managed cake, pin the tail on the donkey, a pinata, and lots of party games - most of which I remembered at the last minute from my time being a cub scout & daisy scout leader. I even led them in doing the hokey pokey :-) We had about 10 children - most all of them from the harbor and a couple from home school PE class.
As soon as the party was over we headed towards the mainland. Phillip has a flight out tomorrow night and we've planned to spend Sunday exploring the Everglades. So tonight we're in a cozy hotel - not far from the park entrance - and Phillip gets to watch the Dallas Cowboys football game in our hotel room while Coleen sorts through her birthday loot!