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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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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The beautiful Fairchild Botanic Gardens

Our friends Mike and Lori McKean were still at their condo in Boynton Beach, and took the short drive down to Miami for another visit.  We enjoyed  a nice couple of days aboard Misty, took walks on the beach and of course….we ATE!  Great dinners aboard, and a lovely dinner at Little Havanna in North Miami Beach.  We enjoyed a great meal there last year with our friends Jeff and Lucy/Encantada, and again had a great dinner.  This time, we enjoyed our meal with vocals from a lovely Spanish influenced band.  Another fun night!  We also took a drive up to see their place in Boynton Beach and dinner at Two George’s, right on the ICW.  Being at places on the water that we have passed while traveling aboard Misty is always a different perspective!

Scenes around Bill Byrd Marina in North Miami Beach, and Boynton Beach

We continued our exploration of Miami with a drive out to Key Biscayne.  It’s a beautiful area!  We drove out to the lighthouse, explored the beach and then on to check out the marina at Bill Bagg’s State Park.

The beautiful light house in Key Biscayne, with views of Miami and “Stiltsville”

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The beautiful beach at Key Biscayne, and a sign that is a little scary….specifically the purple flag part!!

After a lovely morning in Key Biscayne, we followed our guide book and ventured back up to Coral Gables to check out the Biltmore Hotel.  This remarkable hotel is certainly one of the most elegant National Historic Landmarks we’ve ever seen.  Set on over 150 acres, the hotel fronts a beautiful 18-hole golf course, tennis, a  spa and the enormous pool.  The restaurant Cascade sits along one side of the pool, with arches adorned with huge sculptures, and is said to be one of the largest hotel swimming pools in the U.S.  We enjoyed a yummy lunch watching hotel guests frolic in the pool.

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The beautiful Biltmore Hotel

Just across the street from the Biltmore was a lovely little church.  While we couldn’t get inside, we could at least admire it’s beauty on the exterior.

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A few blocks away from the Biltmore is the Venetian Pool.  Nestled into a beautiful Cape Coral neighborhood, the Venetian Pool is the only swimming pool on the National Register of Historic Places.  This is a former rock quarry transformed in 1924 by George Merrick, an historic real estate developer.  Merrick transformed it into the “Venetian Casino”, and was a popular destination for celebrities and A-Listers.  This is a public pool, with caves, waterfalls and gardens surrounding it.  Unfortunately, it was closed and the pool drained, looking like it’s getting ready for a much needed face lift.  We peeked through the fence to get a sense of it’s beauty.

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The Venetian Pool, Coral Gables

After a long day of exploring, we were rewarded with a beautiful sunset at the marina.

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One of the sights we had read about was Coral Castle, but it was a bit of a drive south to get there. Since we had some extra time until the boys flew down to meet us, we decided to take the drive, and we’re so glad we did!  This place is remarkable!  Coral Castle was built by Edward Leedskalnin, an immigrant from Latvia.  He built the “castle” as a tribute to his 16 year old intended bride after she left him just one day before their wedding.  The castle features several remarkable engineering feats, the most incredible being that this diminutive man (5′ tall and 100 pounds) built it by himself, without help of other men or machinery.  Remember, the entire “castle” is built of coral and limestone, and it is estimated that it is constructed with 1,000 tons of stone.  Coral Castle well worth the drive…it’s amazing!

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Coral Castle

On the way home, we stopped at Burr’s Berry Farm and grabbed a hot dog and one of their infamous strawberry shakes for lunch.  We then felt like pigs, but it was worth it!

Burr’s Berry Farm

We had seen signs along the roads, and read about the Ancient Spanish Mission in North Miami Beach.  The mission was built in Sacramenia, in northern Spain from 1133 – 1141 AD.  In 1925, William Randolph Hearst purchased the Cloisters and the Monastery’s outbuildings.  He had it dismantled stone by stone, bound with protective hay, packed in more that 11,000 wooden crates, numbered and shipped to the United States.  Soon after arrival in the U.S. it was held up in customs due to concerns about illnesses from Europe being in the hay of the packaging.  Additionally, Heart was encountering some financial strains, so the collection was sold at auction.  The crates sat in a Brooklyn, N.Y. warehouse for 26 years before being purchased by two entrepreneurs to use as a tourist attraction.  After 19 months and $20 million, the monastery was put together.  Time magazine called it the “biggest jigsaw puzzle in history”.   In 1964, Colonel Robert Pentland, Jr, a multimillionaire banker, philanthropist and benefactor of many Episcopal churches, purchased the monastery and donated it to the Bishop of Florida.  Today, the monastery is the active parish of Church of St. Bernard de Clairvaux, where services are still held on Sundays and weekdays in both English and Spanish.  The monastery sits in a beautiful garden, and was busy with photo shoots the day we were visiting.  Like Vizcaya, you can pay a fee to have engagement, wedding and first communion portraits taken.  

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The Ancient Spanish Mission, North Miami Beach

Nancy was super excited to connect with an old client/friend from NYC, Steve Waterman, who now lives in Parkland, just outside of Ft. Lauderdale.  It was wonderful to connect and see that Steve is, well, exactly the same!

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Nancy and Steve

Our countdown is nearly over….Justin and Bryan arrive tomorrow, March 7th, and we’re super excited to spend a week with them in Miami and the Keys!  But first, another beautiful sunset!

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We loved Miami, and despite all that we did, we feel there is more to see.  The food, culture, arts and more, we will be back to explore some more in the future.  Florida Keys, here we come!!

OPA!! We landed in Tarpon Springs, FL., a decidedly Greek Town, on January 15, 2020…The Gulf Crossing is OVER!! On to explore the West Coast of Florida and cross our Wake (AKA complete our Loop)!

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Tarpon Springs Municipal Marina

After arriving in Tarpon Springs at 1:40 pm, and checking in at the Municipal Marina, we went into town for Gyros, following the Dock Master’s suggestion.  We had a delicious lunch at The Limani before returning to Misty for a nap!  We were both exhausted, and Nancy was additionally wiped due to a bit of seasickness during the crossing.

Downtown Tarpon Springs, and the delicious Limani for lunch

Tarpon Springs is known for its sponge industry.  The first sponge business was started in the 1880’s.  After years of growth, John Cocoris introduced the technique of sponge diving to the area by recruiting divers and crew members from Greece.  The sponge industry soon became one of Florida’s leading maritime industries.  Despite red tides and sponge diseases, there is still a small active sponge industry today.  Sponge boats and their catches line the wharf, and the Greek influence is quite prevalent.  There are numerous Greek restaurants, bakeries and wine stores, and of course, sponges are sold everywhere!  Even the street signs are in English and Greek!

Sponge boats and monuments to the divers dot the waterfront

Scenes around Tarpon Springs

We spent our time in Tarpon Springs wandering in and out of the shops, enjoying the Greek food (including the bakery and Baklava!), watching the sponge boats and exploring the “Spongeorama Sponge Factory“  for treasures.  We bought a couple of sponges (how could you not?) in this fun and kitchy store.  Nancy enjoyed the beautiful bike paths, and she rode to the library for a WiFi connection (to work on our blog!).

Spongeorama!!

On our last evening we enjoyed an amazingly authentic and delicious meal at Mykonos.  From the flaming Saganaki to the Baklava, it was amazing!! Thanks to our friend Deb Neal/Saltaire, for the recommendation!

A fabulous dinner at Mykonos

Tarpon Springs is a beautiful little town, and we would love to come back to do more exploring of the “Bend” in Florida!

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So long for now, Tarpon Springs

As we left Tarpon Springs and got out of the Anclote River to the Gulf, we finally felt like we were in Florida…and we were THRILLED!!  We made a short 37 mile run to Clearwater Beach Municipal Marina, which is a short walk from spectacular Gulf beaches.

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Heading out to the Gulf….looking like Florida!

As we got settled after fighting with the wind, Nancy went up to the bow to  secure lines and fenders.  She found a fearless pelican on the piling just a couple of feet away from our bow.  He stayed for a bit, posing for the camera!

We wandered down to explore the beach after a quick lunch on board.  There was a lot of activity at the beach: a big volleyball tournament with many spectators, lots of people enjoying the beach and the views from the pier.  It was great to get our toes in the sand!

Enjoying a walk around Clearwater Beach

We rented a car while in Clearwater, as we have decided to look for a “dirt home” on the Gulf Coast.  We enjoyed the beautiful neighborhoods and towns around the Clearwater area, but the real estate is pricey!  Off the list!

We had been told that the food and the jalapeno margaritas at Marina Cantina, adjacent to our marina, was good, so we gave it a shot.  We thoroughly enjoyed our Empanadas, Nancy’s yummy shrimp dish, and Rob’s fish tacos.  Oh, and did I mention the ridiculous carmelized Plantains with ice cream and caramel sauce?  This Loop is sometimes too delicious and tempting!

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Yummy jalapeno margaritas and meal at Marina Cantina (note dessert is given a larger space!)

We took a drive to see the small towns of Dunedin and Gulfport, both filled with charm and right on the Gulf.  Dunedin is a charming, small town named by two early Scottish settlers.  Dunedin is the Scottish Gaelic word for Edinburgh.

Dunedin, Florida

Gulfport is an adorable little beach town, and it’s super colorful buildings and gardens give it a funky vibe! There was a market lining the main street of Gulfport the day we visited. We enjoyed the various vendors and their food and wares, making a few purchases before having a delicious lunch at Stella’s.

Colorful Gulfport

There were a number of other Looper boats in Clearwater, and we had a fun group for “Docktails” before we left with the crews of In-Vince-Ible (Sarah & Harlan), Apres Sail (Kathleen and Michael), Alcyone (Patty and Todd) and Saltaire (Deb, John, Cheeto and family).

Clearwater Beach Docktails

We departed Clearwater on January 22 with cooler weather.  It was sunny, but only 39 degrees when we pulled out of our slip, but it was expected to warm up to 70.  Bring it on!!

Shortly after we got underway, we had a fabulous dolphin display, as they jumped and twisted out of the water in our wake!

We did another short 37 mile run to Harborage Marina in St. Petersburg.

Tampa Bay, enroute to St. Petersburg

After pumping out and getting settled in our slip, we bumped into Bo Brown, who commented on the beauty of our Misty girl.  Rob thanked him, and mentioned we were going to sell her, not knowing that Bo is a broker for Preferred Yacht Sales, who has an office at the marina.  After chatting for a bit, we welcomed Bo and the Preferred Yacht team aboard for a tour of Misty.  It turns out that Joe Zammataro, Preferred Yachts owner, rode the Transbridge Bus from Clinton, NJ to Manhattan several years back!  Such a small world, as Nancy did just that for 22 years!!  After having a frustrating time connecting with the broker from Curtis Stokes Yacht sales, and such a positive experience with Preferred Yachts, we decided they would be the broker to list Misty, after we return from our trip to the Bahamas.  Phew…big decision made!  Now we were free to explore beautiful St. Petersburg!

Our first afternoon we hopped on our bikes, and rode around the waterfront, parks and a bit of town.  We enjoyed dinner on board, and a beautiful sunset over the marina.

The next day was filled with ART!  First stop was the remarkable Dali Museum. While never a fan of his genre of work, you can’t help but be amazed by his imagination and incredible talent.  The building that houses the collection is a work of art itself, featuring a geodesic glass bubble nicknamed the Enigma, with 1,062 glass panels.

The gardens and grounds around the Dali Museum

Founded with the collection of avid Dali collectors and friends, A. Reynolds and Eleanor Morse, the museum is home to over 2,400 Salvador Dali works, including nearly 300 oil paintings, watercolors and drawings, along with more than 2,100 prints, photographs, posters, textiles, and sculptures, not to mention films.  It is a remarkable museum, and well worth the visit!

The remarkable Dali Museum

After a quick (but yummy!) lunch at a downtown sidewalk café, we continued on to the Chihuly Collection.  Ahhhh, Chihuly!!  Dale Chihuly is considered to be a pioneer in studio glass, who transformed the methods of creating glass art.  There truly are no words for the color, texture and light his work captures.  We’re real fans of his work, and have had the good fortune to see the Chihuly Garden and Glass in Seattle.  If you’ve never seen his work, it’s worth finding, and once you know his work, you’ll recognize it, and be amazed at  how frequently you will spot it in your travels.  We’ve seen pieces at the Borgata in Atlantic City, NJ, on the lobby ceiling at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, and one near the entrance to the butterfly house at Zoo Miami. And, a museum in St. Petersburg!

The Chihuly Collection

We continued south on January 24th under cloudy skies after waiting for a fog to lift.  We were heading to Sarasota, and on the way, we were surprised to find that there really is a Gilligan’s Island!

Gilligan’s Island

The short run to Sarasota (38 miles) took only 4 hours, and we were settled in our slip at Marina Jack by 3 pm.

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We wandered around town, then had a quiet dinner and evening aboard Misty.

Downtown Sarasota

Night scenes at Marina Jack

The next morning we hit the farmer’s market in town.  The dock hands had told us it wasn’t anything special, but we disagree!!  It was a wonderful market that went on for blocks, and along the cross streets, with a great combination of crafts, produce, plants and food trucks.  We loved it!

Sarasota farmer’s market

After lunch, we took an Uber to The Ringling. Wow!  The former winter estate of John and Mable Ringling (yes, as in the circus!) features an art museum, a circus museum that houses an amazing miniature circus display, the Ringling mansion Ca’ D’Zan (who knew the circus was so profitable?!), a theatre, gardens and grounds. We had only the afternoon, and the art museum was closed for renovations, so we opted to tour the circus museum and wander the grounds.  Ca’ D’Zan is an event in and of itself! Since we’ve decided to look for a home here on the Gulf Coast, we are sure to be back!

As you enter the Circus Museum, you are greeted by “The Greatest Show on Earth” mural, painted by William Woodward, a well-known muralist and painter, as well as a Professor of Fine Arts at The George Washington University.  For 22 years, the mural was showcased in the Ringling Brothers corporate lobby.  When the offices moved to the West Coast of Florida, the mural was donated to the Ringling in 2012.

The mural is huge!  42 feet long by 22 feet high, it is an oil on canvas that depicts 45 performers, 45 animals and 7 banners.  The mural took Woodward a year and a half to plan and six months to paint.

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The Greatest Show on Earth mural, and Nancy joining the circus!

The Circus Museum is not that large, but the highlight is the miniature circus display.  It’s amazing and remarkably detailed, covering not just the big top, but all of the behind the scenes areas of a circus to truly give you the scope of the production.