We got beat up pretty badly on the first leg of our trip from Marco Island to Marathon Key. As previously reported, we had to get off the Gulf at Everglades City in order to "save the furniture" because the Gulf turned into a washing machine. We made the journey to Marathon on March 3. It was a long ride...about 84 miles...but late in the afternoon we pulled into a most beautiful marina resort! Marlin Bay sits on the Gulf side of the island and it is a destination for a lot of Loopers who want a long term stay in the Keys. There were at least 10 Looper boats at the marina when we pulled in. We finally connected with our friends, Tom and Angie, after not seeing them for a number of months. We spent 10 nights at this marina. Our first night there was a "Cross the Wake" party for a fellow Looper with many Loopers in attendance. We ate at quite a few of the local restaurants and couldn't get enough of the fresh seafood. There are many fishing businesses in Marathon that provide fresh catches each day. Linda still hasn't gotten enough of the lobster and crab bisques.
We did quite a bit of walking in Marathon. Regardless of where you there is always a need to go to the grocery store, the beverage mart, and Walgreens. We visited and toured the Turtle Hospital and learned so much about what is being done to protect injured turtles. Did you know that a momma turtle will only lay her eggs on the beach where she was born? Incredible to think about how strong that instinct is. We were somewhat limited on activities because of the 20+mph winds that never stopped for 5 days. The day before we left we caught the local bus on Hwy 1 for $1 each (senior rates!) and traveled to Key West for the day. Much better than $7/ft. per night for a slip in Key West. This was just as the Corona virus was beginning to make the news. Happy to say that our trek was 14 days ago and we both are doing well thus far. We had a wonderful tour of the Hemingway House and walked Duvall Street from the top to the bottom, or from The Southern Most Point to Mallory Square. We enjoyed lunch at Sloppy Joe's Bar for some great food and music and had a "before getting back on the bus" libation at Smokin Tuna Saloon (thanks Mark for the tip). It was a nice time to visit Key West because it was just prior to Spring Break getting into full swing. Nice crowds, but not overly crowded. We returned to our last sunset at Marlin Bay and proceeded to Key Largo on March 14. For the first time in 8 months we have rounded the tip of southern Florida and began traveling north. We are over half-way in our Great Loop Adventure.
Anchorage Marina in Key Largo, March 16, was somewhat isolated from town so we stayed close to the boat and had a nice outdoor dinner at an adjacent restaurant. The impact from the Corona virus was growing and we became more wary of the places we visited and the people around us. After a night anchored across from downtown Miami in the Marine Stadium bay, we arrived at Las Olas Marina in Ft. Lauderdale on March 17 for a couple of days only to find that the beautiful beach that was 2 blocks from the marina had been closed the day before. The only people there were the 100's of law enforcement making sure that no one placed a foot on the beach. So what did all those spring breakers do? Hit the bars. Shoulder to shoulder. We retreated back to the boat quickly and the next day all the bars and restaurants were closed in the Ft. Lauderdale area. It became a ghost town overnight. We are now beginning to hear rumblings of marina closings further north. Not sure what lies ahead for us.
We traveled to Palm Harbor in Palm Beach on March 19. This is another very beautiful marina. We were only there one evening and we continued the next day to Sunset Bay in Stuart, Fl. Late afternoon (March 20) we enjoyed a margarita at their open air bar/restaurant and with no notice the manager came out and said last call that the Governor issued orders closing everything down in one hour. We returned to the boat and started to call marinas north of us. It was our goal to make Jacksonville over the next week (about 250 miles). Two marinas told us they would call us back in light of the changing environment. They did and told us marinas are closing and were not taking new transient reservations. We stayed in Stuart for the weekend, as it is crazy on the waterways in southern Florida on the weekends. Our friends and fellow loopers, Carol and Eric, were also there and Carol's brother lives in Stuart. He was kind enough to take us to a great open market where we were able to stock up on fresh veggies and some staples. We are now stocked for at least 2-3 weeks and the freezer is full. We'll be doing a lot of cooking on the boat since there isn't a restaurant open anywhere.
We confirmed our reservation at Loggerhead Marina in Vero Beach and and arrived March 23. We will be at this location until something opens up going north. It could be several weeks, however, we are staying in place and actually feeling very fortunate to be in a safe harbor with a beautiful view. Only problem is everything in the marina is closed to the public...the pool, the lounge, restaurants around the area, etc. Also, we are seeing comments on the looper association blog that the Erie Canal and the Trent/Severn waterway in Canada may not be opened this year and that would really change our trip plans as we could not get back to Door County by fall.
We are feeling blessed that at this time we are both heathy. Our children's families have been social distancing/cocooning in their homes for almost two weeks now and remain healthy. We have been asked if we are going to go home in light of these new developments. We will be staying on the boat until such a time that it is safe to begin traveling again. We love the warmth and the fresh air that this environment provides. We hope that everyone and your families stay healthy.