On Thursday, the 11th, Debbie and I cast off the lines to head south out of Bradenton, FL. Our best friends have a boat of similar size and are berthed in the slip next to us. They went, as well. This was our first experience with buddy boating.
Our first stop was Cayo Costa State Park, near Boca Grande. The weather was great so we ran outside the whole way. A summer storm parted as we prepared to enter the channel and we came in to calm conditions. After dropping the hook, a pocket storm blew up and caused my friend's anchor to dislodge. Since he had PTSD from a recent grounding, they pulled up and went to a marina for the night. Our generator decided to spontaneously shut off about every hour so we didn't sleep much through the night and decided to stay in marinas the rest of the trip.
The next morning, my friend slipped coming down the stairs to his swim platform and cut his knee and elbow. The elbow required a butterfly stitch but he was otherwise lucky.
The second day was a shorter run to Marco Island. We stayed at the Marco Island Marina. They put us in ill-suited slips for our size of boat and the sole dockhand was pretty rude so we won't be staying there again. We Ubered into town and had a great dinner at Mangos.
We left just before dawn on the third day to make the Gulf crossing. Seas were forecasted to be 1' at 2 second intervals on the nose but they were actually more like 3'. Do-able and no sweat for our boats but not what was predicted.
We had booked five nights at the Marathon Marina. Great place! Good docks, great service, and strong wifi. We really enjoyed the place. The onsite restaurant and swimming pool turned out to be awesome (even though I scuffed my knee in the pool).
Our friend's house water pump went out so I brought over a spare and we swapped it out. Not realizing he had just used it, I burned my wrist on the tip of the hot heat gun. But we got him back in business with water pressure.
We dropped our dinghies and had a great time running around the area. We ran out to Sombrero Reef and did some snorkeling. We went out fishing. My friend caught a small bonnet head shark and a baby barracuda. My wife caught a small French Grunt. All were released.
We also rented a car and drove down to Key West one day. Lots of the shops along Duval street were gone, closed down and emptied out. With no cruise ships able to dock and the whole COVID thing going on, there were no crowds but we were able to get in and do everything we wanted to do.
We could have easily stayed another week or two... or moved there... but the forecast for crossing on the 18th was outstanding so we went for it. The forecast was right! You would have had to iron the water to make it any flatter. Great crossing.
That night, we stayed at Rose Marina in Marco and had a much better evening. We threw some shrimp and andouille sausage, corn on the cob, potatoes, etc in a large pot and had a hell of a shrimp boil which we paired with an amazing bottle of Caymus cabernet. Wonderful, wonderful meal up on the bridge deck with terrific evening temps.
The next morning, we took our time heading up to Cabbage Key Marina outside of Boca Grande. A little skinny getting in but they had two fixed, wooden docks that could accommodate boats our size. This is old Florida at it's best. A terrific meal at the restaurant and then early to bed. We're getting tired.
The final day of the trip was just a smooth. We ran on the outside from Boca Grande back to Bradenton. The outgoing tidal flow as we slipped past Passage Key was so strong it knocked four miles per hour off of our forward progress but we were tied up and nestled in by 5:30 pm. I spent most of the day on the bridge without a shirt and, even though it was very shaded, I ended up with a nasty sunburn on my chest.
Sunday morning, I set about cleaning strainers and smashed the top of my head on a hatch door. My friend and I made a run to West Marine to pick up a new house water pump and anchor for his boat. The 73 pound Rocna we attached to his boat should serve him much better than the stock, shiny, what I call a "marina" anchor that he had. We turned our attention to replacing his water pump and he somehow put a 1" gash in the top of his foot with a box cutter. That required a break to run to Urgent Care and get three stitches.
Bruised, battered, and bloody... but we had an great time!
There are too many photos of the trip to post here so I'll just post a link to the Google Album.
Keys Trip Photo and Video Album