Our last hoorah…heading north, back up the Gulf to St. Petersburg March 16 – June 10, 2020

We left Marlin Bay at 8 am bound for an anchorage nestled in Little Shark River in the Everglades.  We had tried to stay there on our way down to Marlin Bay back in February, but had a hiccup with our anchor.  We were happy to get there, as it’s a beautiful spot.  We deployed the dinghy and went out to explore.  It’s a beautiful spot, loaded with birds, dolphins and tarpon.  As we returned to the boat, a dolphin swam under our dinghy and bumped us…so cool!  We spent the afternoon relaxing aboard Misty and saw two huge (about 5′ long!) tarpon jump out of the water.  It happens so fast, it’s impossible to document, but it will live in our memories.

A beautiful afternoon at Little Shark River

The beautiful light before, during and after sunset

When we went out after dark to look at the incredible stars, we could hear the dolphins breathing around the boat.  This was a lovely anchorage with room for plenty of boats. While there were other boats there, they were far from us and we had a really quiet stay.

We raised our anchor at 7:30 am to continue north. There were numerous fields of lobster pots to negotiate, but once we were clear of them, it was a beautiful ride with extremely calm seas.

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Lobster traps everywhere!

Approaching Marco Island

We got to Rose Marina in Marco Island just after 1 pm.  We spent two very quiet nights there, as the Corona Virus pandemic shutdown was beginning., quite literally as we arrived.  The most excitement we had was being across the dock from the Key West Ferry.  There was always a good crowd on the ferry, as Key West was evacuating non-residents due to the pandemic. We had plenty of food on board from our preparation for our Bahamas trip, so we just relaxed, took walks and enjoyed the scenery.

Scenes at Rose Marina, Marco Island

We left Marco Island for the 47 mile ride up to Tarpon Point Marina in Cape Coral. We had a spectacular ride up the Gulf with a couple of very playful dolphins in our bow wake!

Leaving Marco Island

Playful dolphins under our bow in the Gulf

We wanted to get over to our soon-to-be home to meet with a couple of home improvement vendors, but the continued closures due to the pandemic was going to change our plans.  We decided that we would sit tight once there and put our trip up to St. Petersburg, where Misty would be put on the sales dock at Harborage Marina, on hold.  Unfortunately, when we got to Tarpon Point, despite having a reservation for a week, they didn’t have a slip for us.  And, they also wouldn’t accommodate us for a month.  UGH!  So after a night on the fuel dock, we continued up the Caloosahatchee River to Legacy Harbor Marina, where we would end up staying for 2 1/2 months!

Tarpon Point Marina, Cape Coral

We got to Legacy Harbor Marina on March 20th, and soon after our arrival, it was clear that we would need to stay put for longer than the expected month.  The pandemic worsened and closures continued as the state shut down.  We decided to not only continue our stay, but also push back the closing on our new home until early June.  We made the best of it by taking walks, bike rides, cooking, reading and lots of needlepoint and swimming for Nancy.

A beautiful evening aboard Misty at Legacy Harbor

We kept our rental car for our first week, and took several picnic lunch car rides, which we called “Old people in cars eating lunch”!  We explored Pine Island, Venice, Sanibel, Captiva, Ft. Myers beach and more.

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St. James City, Pine Island

The fun and colorful town of Matlacha on Pine Island, can’t wait to come back when it’s safe for things to open up!

Venice, and the closed beach along the inlet

J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, Sanibel Island

Jay Norwood Darling was instrumental in blocking the sale of this environmentally valuable land to developers on Sanibel Island.  President Harry S. Truman signed an executive order in 1945 creating the Sanibel National Wildlife Refuge at Darling’s urging.  In 1967 the refuge was renamed in honor of the environmentalist.  The refuge consists of over 6,400 acres of mangrove forest, submerged seagrass beds, cordgrass marshes, and West Indian hardwood hammocks. The refuge was created to safeguard the wildlife and provide feeding, nesting and roosting areas for migratory birds.  Today, the refuge is a habitat for over 245 species of birds.  We saw so many incredible birds, and even a mama and baby osprey in their nest!

We enjoyed a solitary stroll through a spectacular nursery that looks more like a botanical garden than a retail outlet!  We’re dreaming of our new garden and thrilled to see both the beautiful varieties of plants, but how reasonably priced they were.

In the Garden nursery, Sanibel

Beautiful Captiva

Ft. Myers Beach…note the turtle nests blocked off

We spent a lot of time walking and riding a bike around Ft. Myers, enjoying the beautiful homes and the beautifully restored downtown.  During quarantine, it was quite eerie!

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The “full moon of April”, called the Pink Moon, occurred on the 7th.  It is said have been the biggest “supermoon” of the year!

Our walk along McGregor Avenue and the Edison Ford neighborhood

And the neighborhood flowers and trees

Edison Ford Winter Estates

Red Button Ginger in the Edison Ford Garden, and also in ours!

Edison Elementary School, and their inspirational painted rocks

In January 2016, an outdoor sculpture exhibit was installed in downtown Ft. Myers, as a promotion for a planned luxury condominium on the river,  You will find a total of 23 giant, rusted iron sculptures scattered throughout town, and down by the water.  Each figure weighs between 200 and 1,000 pounds, and represent common figures not ordinarily featured in sculptures: men playing chess, a fruit seller, a man walking his dog, men playing chess, and more.  They are the work of Columbian artist Edgardo Carmona, and this is his first time his work has been exhibited in North America.

Carmona’s “Giants” around Ft. Myers

Beautiful, and very empty, downtown Ft. Myers

We had a great spot to isolate ourselves in the marina…pretty much the last slip, with no neighbors.  With Rob’s stride, 550 steps!  We were visited by several manatees (two who were being frisky off our stern for quite a while one afternoon!), dolphins and lots of  ducks and jumping fish!  We were also perfectly situated to enjoy both the sunrise and sunset!

Our long walk to the boat

After being “stuck” on board for weeks, we decided to take Misty for a short run down to Sanibel and spend the night “on the hook”, just off Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge.  It was a beautiful, relaxing afternoon.  We were amazed when David Tribula and his wife Suzy, pulled up next to us in the river when we were on our way down to Sanibel.  They later came by our anchorage for a chat.  David built Misty (then named the “Suzy T”), and sold her to us in 2017!

A beautiful anchorage in San Carlos Bay, and running into the Tribula’s

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Views around Legacy Harbor

Sunrise

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Sunset

Happily, there is a Publix one block away from Legacy Harbor for provisioning.  Sadly, the Covid-19 pandemic has driven people to panic shop, and the shelves at Publix showed it.  Meats, dairy, water, disinfectants and paper products disappeared quickly.  Things did settle down, but there was a constant shortage of disinfectants, and paper products, some meats, over the counter drugs and various other products were sold with limitations of one per customer.

West First Street Publix at the beginning of the pandemic

Our isolation increased in May, when Florida is infested with “Love Bugs” for a couple of weeks.  Love Bugs are a species of march fly found in Central America and, of course, the southeastern U.S, especially along the Gulf.  During mating and after mating, the pairs remain together.  But, the male dies and is literally carried by the female until she lays her eggs. And, then she dies.  Truly a barbaric kind of mating! They swarm (quite literally) twice a year.  Yippee….can’t wait until their second flight in September!

Love bugs swarming Misty

Let the rainy season begin….daily storms are fun to watch from a boat!

We began to pack up Misty, getting ready to close on our new home in Cape Coral on June 1.  Donning our masks, we purchased a car (a 2015 Toyota Highlander), shopped for mattresses and furniture, taking advantage of Memorial Day sales.  We officially began to move in on the 2nd, and spent our first night sleeping on a mattress on the floor! It began to feel more like home once the furniture came on the 3rd!

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Home Sweet Home

We spent a few days unpacking, hiring a painter, ordering plantation shutters and organizing our final trip aboard Misty to St. Petersburg, where Misty would settle in on the sales dock at Harborage Marina.  We made our final of seven trips filling the Highlander to the gills, and packed up for our two day trip north.  We tearfully departed at 6:15 am on June 8th.

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Departing Legacy Harbor Marina, Ft. Myers

It was terribly hot and humid the entire day, with little breeze, and we were sweating!  However, we had numerous dolphin sightings, calm seas and a lovely dinner with our fellow Looper friends Cindy and Andy/Aquaman.

Views along the Gulf ICW

Venice Beach Inlet

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Dinner with Cindy and Andy 

 

Sunset

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Beautiful sunrise, Venice, June 9th

From Venice to St. Petersburg

And so it goes…after 3 years, we are saying good-bye to our beloved Misty.  So many memories, all happy, with only a few hiccups and scary moments.  But, far more amazing places, people and forever friends.  While our last day was another hot and completely sweaty day, it was wonderful.  A beautiful sunrise, dolphins jumping in our wake, good timing with bridge openings, calm winds and seas.  This was the journey of a lifetime.  We are forever grateful for all of the wonderful people we met on this journey and what we have learned about ourselves, and life overall.

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Who says that the best days of boat ownership are the day you buy it, and the day you sell it.  Nonsense!  On to the next adventure…Misty out.

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Misty at anchor in Three Rivers Lake, Alabama.  Photo by Jayne Gorham/Bella Gatto

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mom and Dad (AKA Nancy and Rob) are super happy…vacation with our boys begins!! March 7 – 14, 2020

After much back and forth over our Bahamas trip and its eventual cancellation, we’re super excited to have Justin and Bryan join us aboard Misty for some fun in the sun in Miami and the Florida Keys!  Let the vacation re-set begin…we’re thrilled with our plans to share Florida cruising with our boys.

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Rob with Justin and Bryan at Haulover inlet

We fetched them from the airport mid-afternoon on March 7th, and headed back to the boat for a relaxing afternoon, wandering around Haulover Park, past the inlet and along the beach, followed by a yummy dinner aboard Misty.  We’ve said it before, but this park is lovely, and while this city marina is basic, we love the location across the street from the beach, and the dock hands (Alex!!) are great (office staff, not so much), and the facilities are clean and secure.  There’s also a Publix and CVS just a bike ride away!

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The gang’s together at Haulover Inlet

After dinner, we were introduced to a crazy/hysterical/more than slightly perverted game:  Cards Against Humanity.  We laughed until we cried, with more than a fair amount of blushing from Mom!!

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We were rewarded with a lovely sunset over the marina.

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We have loved our time in Miami, and wanted to share it with the boys.  Our first day we spent wandering around South Beach enjoying the beautiful art deco architecture, the walk along the beach, and a delicious lunch at Oh! Mexico, where we lunched with our friends the McKean’s last year.  We enjoyed yummy tacos and margaritas before heading back to the boat for dinner.

Strolling along the beach…just LOVE the lifeguard “stands” all along Miami Beach

Beautiful Art Deco architecture, art and lunch in South Beach

We had another beautiful evening aboard Misty for dinner, a nice sunset and more laughter!

We let the boys lead the way as to what we did/where we went, after providing them with a fairly comprehensive list of ideas.  We settled on Zoo Miami.  Zoo’s have come a long way in recent years, with their ongoing efforts for humane treatment and homes for the animals, but more importantly, their conservation efforts.  Zoo Miami is fabulous and incredibly interesting, and we were super impressed with the docents throughout the zoo.  We had a great day, and would definitely go back!!

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As you enter Zoo Miami, you’re greeted by the beautiful flamingos

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Sleepy tiger

All kinds of fun loving monkeys, one playing endlessly in a bed sheet!

Beautiful birds in the aviary, with the most remarkable docent who helped us spot and identify some amazing birds hidden in the foliage!

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Hello from the camels!!

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…and the rhinos!

A greeting from the elephants

When we first saw the lions, they were napping, but then…

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Everyone woke up!! ROAR!!!

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And then there was this guy, who kept making funny faces at us! Silly monkey!

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And when in Florida….there are sure to be some lizard sightings!

The Zebra’s

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Up close with the giraffe’s…you can even feed them!

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The beautiful bird-filled pond at the zoo exit

After a few fun filled days in Miami, we set out to take Justin and Bryan to some of our favorite places in the Keys for the rest of the week.  Our first stop was going to be Tarpon Basin, a great anchorage we’ve visited a few times, and we wanted to share the mangrove “caves” with them.  We set out shortly before 8 am, under partly cloudy skies and easterly winds of 12 – 18 MPH, so we anticipated some chop as we crossed Biscayne Bay  as we headed south.  But first, the boys got the opportunity to cruise through Miami.

So long for now, Miami…we’ll be back for sure!!

Rob

Ahhh…the Keys!  First stop, Key Largo!

After setting anchor in Tarpon Basin, the boys headed out in the dinghy to explore the mangrove caves, and Nancy got busy pulling together “docktails” and dinner.

Here they go, and here they come!!

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Our Tarpon Basin sunset

The weather the morning of March 11th was consistent with the previous day, but we were in the Gulf, and a bit more protected, so it was less choppy/bouncy.  We did the short run to Lignumvitae Key in two hours.  It was spectacular, and the boys were treated to a great dolphin display in the bow AND the stern!!  Bryan had his Go Pro and caught it all!

Our spectacular cruise from Tarpon to Lignumvitae Key…a picture perfect day!

After grabbing our mooring ball, the boys once again set out on the dinghy to shore and check out Lignumvitae Key.  Nancy stayed on board to recover from a bit of seasickness (?? ick) and pull together another lovely evening of food and cocktails!

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Lignumvitae Key mooring

That evening we enjoyed a truly spectacular sunset!  Ahhh…the keys!!

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A picture’s worth a thousand words!!

We had a gorgeous day to cruise down to Marlin Bay Resort and Marina in Marathon.  We enjoyed the beautiful day and sights on the water along the way after a nearly 5 hour run.

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On our way to Marlin Bay…March 12th!!

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Our beautiful view for the next five days at Marlin Bay

We were thrilled to be docked just off the pool and clubhouse, as we were looking forward to enjoying this beautiful place that is so very special to us.

Just chilling aboard Misty

We took the short walk over to Key Fisheries to enjoy a great fresh seafood dinner, bring home one of their delicious Key Lime Pies, and relax at the “beach” area on the basin along the Gulf to enjoy the sunset.

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Key Fisheries, where they take your “name” for your order, and change up what the theme is….on this day, it was your favorite cartoon character…makes it fun!!

Enjoying the sunset at Marlin Bay!

We wanted to revisit some of our favorite spots in Marathon with the boys and next upIrie Island Eats Food Truck.  The food is fresh and remarkably delicious.  And you get to eat in that beautiful garden with the produce stand next door.  A yummy, happy place!!

Irie Island Eats and Paradise Produce…lunch and goodies to take home and enjoy from the produce market!

The Turtle Hospital in Marathon, is a small non-profit organization that is dedicated to the rehabilitation of endangered sea turtles.  Sadly, many in their care will never be well enough to be released, but they strive to do so, and give a ton of TLC to those who stay with them.  When they do release them, it’s a big deal, usually taking place at Sombrero Beach in Marathon (we missed one by only a few days).

Turtle patients at the Hospital

After our HOT time at the Turtle Hospital we ventured back to Marlin Bay to relax at the pool and play some pool.

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Pool sharks playing pool at the pool…and the beautiful hibiscus to console me after my awful game!!

Alas, our last night with Justin and Bryan was here.  Rob and Bryan walked over to Key Fisheries for some oysters, and then we enjoyed another dinner aboard Misty before relaxing for another beautiful sunset.

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Our last night, and another beautiful evening at Marlin Bay’s “beach”.

Justin and Bryan left to drive back to Miami early on the morning of the 14th…so sad to see them go, but it was a great week!  After they left, it was time to relax at the pool and overcome our sadness of seeing them leave.

Views from our lounge chairs…with a green visitor!

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There was a big group of Loopers at Marlin Bay, and we enjoyed a beautiful evening grilling burgers and watching the sunset the night before we left to head north.

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Looper BBQ and a lovely sunset for our last evening at Marlin Bay

So Long, Marlin Bay

Our Loop complete, we are free to relax and enjoy the beautiful Keys and Miami! February 8 – March 6, 2020. 🐬🌴🌞🌸⚓️

 

Marlin Bay Resort and Marina

Marlin Bay Resort and Marina is a very special place.  We spent a few days here last February, and loved it.  The facilities are spectacular, with a friendly, helpful and knowledgeable staff, and best of all, the views of the Gulf and the sunset are incredible! We were thrilled that we crossed our wake here, and could spend the next week relaxing.  After our long run from Naples (nearly 10 hours), we were ready to do nothing!  We were in Slip #2, right next to the little lighthouse at the marina entrance, with an unobstructed view of the Gulf and the sandy sitting area along the water just steps from Misty.  We were thrilled to be there!

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Our view from the bow of Misty, watching the rain over the Gulf

There were quite a few Loopers at Marlin Bay.  The marina has more than doubled in size, adding a huge northern basin since we were here last year.  We were happy to be in the southern basin, as it’s smaller with better views and closer access to the pool, bar and clubhouse.  Every evening, the boaters gather in the chairs along the water to watch the sunset and enjoy a cocktail, many arriving with conch shells in hands to salute sundown!  Yes, that happens!

Marlin Bay sunsets

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There were a bunch of large iguanas who lived on the rock jetty next to the basin entrance, but this guy seemed to be king!  Every day, he would pose on the top of the rocks, surrounded by the smaller iguanas looking up at him. His Harem? They were hard to spot, blending in with the rocks, but this guy stands out!

Our friends Steve and Carol (AKA Cookie)/Valentine were staying nearby at Sombrero Marina, and invited us to join them along with fellow Loopers Jerry/Whiskey Business, Renee and Pierre/Shoreline Traveler, and Robin and Ted/Curtis-Sea Key Fisheries for Happy Hour at Key Fisheries.  We had a great time catching up with them, and meeting some new boaters.

Looper Happy Hour at Key Fisheries

Shortly after our arrival in Marathon, Rhonda and Joe Tignor, formerly aboard Bandwagon 3, came to visit Mike and Cindy/Winespeed (also former Loopers) who were docked just south of us at a marina in Marathon.  They rode their dinghy over to Marlin Bay, and we spent a great day enjoying the pool, followed by a fun dinner and Marathon Steak and Lobster.  Many thanks to you all for a wonderful Wake Crossing dinner celebration!  Boy does this ever feel great!

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Fabulous dinner with Rhonda, Cindy, Mike and Joe

Our dear friends Mike and Lori McKean were spending a few months working from their condo in Boynton Beach, FL, over on the East Coast, and came to visit us in Marathon for a few days.  We had a great time relaxing in/at the pool and lounging aboard Misty, grilling and eating on the water, watching the sunsets, and taking Misty for a ride out to Sombrero Key for some snorkeling.  There are quite a few restaurants within walking distance of the marina, but we preferred a mix of grilling and eating along the water, with a couple of meals. It was a great visit!

Our first evening hanging out at Marlin Bay

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Valentine’s Day snorkel trip to Sombrero Key

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Dinner at Key Fisheries, Sunset at Marlin Bay, and a game of pool in the Club House…fun night!

Another delicious meal at Irie Island Eats Food Truck, with a must stop at wonderful Paradise Produce next door!

After Mike and Lori left, we chilled out at the pool (with a couple of cute girls!), enjoyed another sunset, and then said farewell to Marlin Bay.

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Our last day at Marlin Bay…time to head north!

We stayed at Marlin Bay until February 16th, when we set off for a mooring ball at Lignumvitae Key Park, just off of Shell Key and Islamorada.  Our goal was Bill Byrd State Park Marina in North Miami Beach, where we were planning to stage for our extended trip to the Bahamas.  Justin and Bryan would be flying down to Nassau on March 7th, to meet us for a week of cruising in the Exumas

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Pulling out of Marlin Bay, stopping for fuel at Faro Blanco, and we’re off!

What a beautiful day!  There was virtually no wind, sunny skies with a 76 degree morning, and a high of only 82.  And, the water was a lovely temperature.  We were only one of two boats to grab one of the park mooring balls, and enjoyed a quiet afternoon swimming, reading and relaxing.  This is a spectacular anchorage! 

Lignumvitae Key Park Mooring Ball

Lignumvitae Key Park lived up to all of the reviews we had read about it…so beautiful and peaceful. We enjoyed a swim (until we both had a slight jelly fish sting!), the quiet, grilling dinner, and a beautiful sunset followed by a spectacular starry night.  Life “on the hook” is good! 

Our next stop was Tarpon Basin, a beautiful bay along Key Largo.  It was another beautiful, sunny day with temperatures going from a low of 75, to a high  of 82, with virtually no wind. A great night to anchor out!

Traveling through the mangroves heading into Tarpon Basin

We’ve been here twice before, and loved it.  Tarpon is a popular stop, but it’s big, and we have never felt close to anyone. We’ve had manatees and dolphins visit, beautiful sunsets, but never had the chance to take the dinghy over to the mangrove caves.  We were on a mission, and were super excited that we were able to see them.  

We set anchor around 11:30 am, had lunch on board and set off on the dinghy to explore.  On the far side of the basin, closer to the municipal dock, there is an anchorage filled with derelict boats.  They’re fairly tucked in and out of the way, but this is a huge problem all over the state.

Derelict boats in Tarpon Basin

We had done some reading to get an idea of the location for the mangrove caves, and they were fairly easy to find (heading north, they’re on your port side, between Red 48A & 48). I will admit they were more than a little creepy, and I was glad both to have seen them, but also to leave them!!

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Mangrove Caves, Tarpon Basin

We raised anchor at 7:50 am, and continued our journey north to the Miami area. 

From Tarpon Basin to Miami

Our first thought was to anchor out just outside No Name Harbor in Bill Baggs State Park, located at the southern end of Key Biscayne.  There is a basin within a break wall, and an anchorage out in the bay.  Both were packed, as everyone was waiting out the increasing winds to head over to the Bahamas. After scouting the area, we made the decision to continue north to Bill Byrd State Park.  After a frustrating experience connecting with the marina, we finally arrived at 3:39 pm.  We planned to stay at Bill Byrd until we crossed over to the Bahamas, so it was time for us to sit tight.

Cruising through Miami, and the infamous Haulover sandbar…ever the sight of a party!

So, it’s February 18th, we’re in Miami, getting ready/waiting for the weather window to cross to the Bahamas, the wind is blowing, and not in the right direction (south or west is best).  Since we had committed to meeting the boys in the Bahamas on 3/7, we’re getting nervous about making it.  Our crossing would involve getting to the Bimini’s, across the Tongue of the Ocean and then on to Nassau.  It’s a long trip with a lot of open water.  We would need to make a decision soon, and it’s not looking good.  In the meantime, we’re going to enjoy Miami and explore, as we’re pretty well set for a Bahamas crossing if/when we need to go.  Rob got a couple of Florida travel guides for Christmas, and it was time to check it out!

We already had lunch at Gianni’s in Versace’s mansion on our bucket list.  The food was not going to be a draw, as we just wanted to get inside of that house!  Surprisingly, the food was quite good.  Service was meh, but we were seated outside next to the spectacular pool, had a visit from a friendly feline, the food was better than we expected, and we had a great lunch!!

Fabulous “fancy” lunch at Gianni’s in South Beach, a very Versace afternoon!

We quickly made a decision that sadly, the Bahama’s were off the table.  The winds were crazy every day, and there was no end in sight.  The boys changed their flight to Miami (at a cost, obviously!), and we got to planning a fun week for them in Florida.  In the meantime, more of Miami to see!!  Rob got some Florida travel guide books for Christmas, so we have ideas!

First up was Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, located in the Coconut Grove neighborhood of the city.  Vizcaya was built from 1914 -22 by James Deering, who made his fortune at Deering McCormick National Forester.  The Italian Renaissance – styled home and gardens originally sat on 180 acres of waterfront property.  Deering even had a channel dug in Biscayne Bay to provide water access to the estate.  The channel markers are still in place!   We had a beautiful day to explore this spectacular property.

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Villa Vizcaya

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The spectacular Italian Renaissance styled gardens at Vizcaya

The Barge, originally built to be a breakwater, became a “stone party boat” by Vizcaya’s designer, Paul Chalfin.  Sadly, it ended up not being used much as a party barge, but it’s still pretty amazing, dripping with ornate sculptures! 

Anyone who ever visited our home in New Jersey knows that we love to garden, and visiting public gardens has always been an inspiration for us.  In our reading, we learned about the Fairchild Botanic Gardens. The gardens are named after Dr. David Fairchild, a famous plant explorer (1869 – 1954) known for traveling the world in search of useful plants.  He visited every continent in the world except Antartica, and brought back hundreds of important plants, including the flowering cherry tree variety that now grace the Washington, D.C.  Dr. Fairchild retired to Miami in 1935, and joined a group of other plant collectors and horticulturists to create the gardens that opened in 1938 on 83 acres.  Many of the plants he brought over are still growing in the gardens!  It is a gorgeous botanical garden, and we were also treated with a visit to their beautiful butterfly house, which features a beautiful Dale Chihuly glass sculpture.

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