Friends Reunited Tour 2016 – part 2

Sunday afternoon we got together and had a snack lunch at the Holiday Inn poolside. And it was sunny – still chilly – but definitely some improvement.

Sun's out!

Then we picked up a cooler from Morphie for the afternoon’s adventure – we were going on the original African Queen – woo hoo!!!   This boat has an interesting history – being built in 1912 and made famous by the 1951 movie with Kathryn Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart which was filmed in Africa, hence her name.   We climbed on board and were fascinated by the movie stills that the captain showed us in his albums.

African Queen history African Queen history 2 African Queen history 3

We opened the champagne and did our selfie before casting off.   We helped steer; we blew the whistle; we enjoyed the ride; inspected the famous gin box and the steam engine; and just had a wonderful wonderful time…..   Amazing…….and the most perfect weather too although still a little chilly.

Getting ready for our African Queen experience

African Queen 1 African Queen 2 African Queen 4 African Queen 5 African Queen 6 African Queen 7 African Queen 8 African Queen 9 Captain Richard African Queen 10 Captain Ron!

On the way back up the canal we enjoyed the fancy houses and said hi to Morphie as we went by and then were greeted by our pelican welcoming committee as we docked the African Queen back along the wall.

Heading back up the canal Luxury homes Passing Morphie in her slip Pelican welcoming committee

Getting back to the hotel after almost two hours we headed straight over to Snooks for dinner.   The sun went down for the night – being celebrated by a guy with bagpipes – and we thoroughly enjoyed the beautiful sunset.   It was pretty cold so we went inside for dinner and had a great meal. Was very impressed….and then back to Skippers for final pontoonies before calling it a day.

Sunset at Snooks Sunset selfieBagpipe man

Monday morning we were up very early and met at eight – and it was freezing at only 48 F. We found the fast route to take us to South Beach Miami and enjoyed the views of the city as we came across the bridge and found somewhere to park.

Driving to Miami

First stop was to a coffee shop for a quick breakfast – and was greeted by a girl from Scunthorpe!   We wandered to Ocean Drive and enjoyed the sights of the Art Deco historic district and came across the information centre – asked the woman what were ‘the must not miss sights’ as we were only in South Beach for the day.   She was English too and replied “I don’t know!”  Really?!?!   Was a funny moment…. We carried on walking – and met our first American who tried to sell us a tour – and then wandered to see the beach. Pretty impressive but you can tell how cold it was as it was empty.

Miami 1 Miami 2 Miami 3 Miami 4 Miami 5 Miami 14 Miami 6

We then stopped for a quick beer – and Richard chose a gay bar called the Palace.   Their motto was ‘Every Queen needs a Palace’ so wasn’t too difficult to work it out.   The weather had warmed up by now and was turning into a pretty nice day.

Time for a beer

There were a few hustlers around; lots of weird dress shops which we think may have been catering for the cross-dressing community as many of the shoe sizes were pretty big; fancy cars; mad dog ladies; and lovely buildings.  Oh not to mention the young women teetering along on high heels not wearing much in the way of clothing….Miami 7 Miami 8 Miami 9 Miami 10 Doggy stroller Miami 11 Miami 12

Miami 13

We were surprised to see quite a lot of vagrants too who appeared to be living in the park which sits between the road and the beach.  Finally we headed back towards the car and stopped for a great meal in a Cuban restaurant.   By the time we had reached the car we reckoned we had walked about 10 miles in all.   Pretty tired but had really enjoyed ourselves.

Miami 15

We drove US 1 back to Mile Marker 100 and then went to the pool area for a couple of glasses – was getting positively balmy by then.   We then took a break and regrouped for dinner at Skippers. We had had another great day exploring.

Dinner at Skippers

Tuesday and the forecast was for good weather.  So we optimistically planned a pool day – and woo hoo the Sunshine State actually lived up to its name. Almost made 80 degrees – we had a lovely time chilling, bobbing and just generally chatting in the sun.


Later on Ron and Carolyn came to Morphie for dinner and I only just managed to wake up from a nap before they arrived – so was a bit discombobulated for a little while LOL.   But I got my act together – we had a lovely meal – and sat in the cockpit listening to music with lots of laughter.   Around midnight it was time for them to leave and the step down from Morphie onto the small dock was pretty big – we got off and Ron followed except that he stepped straight to the dock and got his other leg caught up.   We tried not to laugh – very unsuccessfully – and he was trapped there while we all fell about in hysterics!   We finally got our act together and eased the ropes so that we could pull Morphie closer to the dock and he could extricate himself – and we fell about laughing again.   Seriously seriously funny moment – but felt a bit bad as it could have gone so badly wrong if he had toppled backward!   Luckily Ron is a good sport and let us off….

Wednesday was our last full day together and we had breakfast on board – it was very cloudy and humid. So we went off shopping before returning to the pool for Carolyn’s final conch fritters of the trip – and the offering from Bogies, Holiday Inn, won this year’s contest hands down. After a final wine bob we took a break and met up again for dinner, slightly glammed up for the occasion.

Best conch of the trip Wine bobbing

We returned to the Fish House Encore – we thought that this was by far the best dinner venue of the trip – and we ordered our food.   Richard went for the lobster bisque again as his starter and it came early, along with Carolyn’s salad that went with her main…. He had finished it before their oyster rockefellers had turned up and this had the beginnings of a another disastrous dinner service. Thankfully they turned up and were eaten – we even got a break before our mains were delivered – and we had an excellent meal…..

Oysters Rockefeller Final dinner together

We returned to Skippers for pontoonies and the inside bar was closed so we took up residence at the outside bar – and although they served us they started cleaning / clearing all the bottles away / and asked us to cash up very quickly. We got another round in and paid the bill – to the most miserable bar tender ever. We were clearly in the way so we left the bar and took a table instead – and then they closed up and turned the lights off…. Great – thanks a lot!!!

Thursday morning and, sadly, it was Carolyn and Ron’s last day. We met them for breakfast in their hotel and then we borrowed the car to do a few boat-related jobs while they did their packing. We filled up a propane tank; topped up our phone card; and filled up diesel and petrol jugs for the rail….   We returned to Carolyn and Ron and went to the Tiki Hut for our final time together.

Last day

And, of course, the heavens now opened.   Was absolutely pouring down but it was time to go – so we had hugs all round and said sad farewells and waved them off into the rain….

Heavens opened Time to go Bye

Feeling very sad we returned to Morphie and that is where we stayed for the rest of the day – it rained very hard and was very windy – so we just tidied up down below and generally chilled before having an early night.

This morning, Friday, and we went out to the bank and to the dive shop – to buy new regulators for me….   We then came back and we gave Morphie some tender loving care down below until she was looking spic and span again. I’m blogging while Richard is on deck giving Morphie a scrub.   It is time to get her ready to go back to sea.

Bye for now


Friends Reunited Tour 2016 – part 1

Mon morning we were up and out early. We went to the local ATM to get drinking vouchers and popped into the Divers Direct store.   We purchased a new small dive tank and fittings and took our regulators in for servicing.   My second stages are cracked so looks like I’ll need to get new mouthpieces – well they are 20+ years old – but Richard’s look fine, so fingers crossed.   We have only purchased the dive tank for doing emergency things like getting an anchor untangled as we have decided to continue renting tanks when we actually go diving. We did a bit of other shopping and, as we were heading back to Morphie, we got the message that Carolyn and Ron had arrived… Woo hoo….so we headed over to the Holiday Inn to say hi. We were pleasantly surprised by their nicely decorated large room – better than we had thought as the outside of the hotel is a bit ‘tired’.

We headed off to Skippers for lunch and a few beverages. Had a nice catch up – then they headed back to unpack. On our way back to Morphie we crept up on a large green iguana that was hanging out on the dock – we caught a photo of him but didn’t manage to get one of him launching himself into the water and swimming off at great speed LOL.

Iguana on the dock

Later on we headed out to the Fish House for dinner. We had a lovely meal and enjoyed the ambience very much.   We had our final pontoonies in Skippers before calling it a day.

Dinner at the Fish House

Tuesday Carolyn and Ron came on board for breakfast. It was a bit chilly and cloudy so we headed out to do some shopping at Publix for wine and beer.   Later on we reconvened at their pool as the sun had decided to pay us a visit and sat around chatting. The boys didn’t venture into the water but Carolyn and I did our first bob of the holiday. The water was actually pretty warm.

Not fancying the water

Bobbing in the pool

Later on we headed out to the Bayside Grill for dinner.   We had planned to eat downstairs in the bar but it was a bit cold so we retreated upstairs to the restaurant.   The meal was OK but it didn’t feel so welcoming so we didn’t really hang around. We headed back to Skippers – and the manager actually gave us a free round woo hoo – before retiring for the night.

Wednesday we were up early and met at 8 am for the 100 mile drive to Key West across the bridges connecting all the islands.

Driving to Key West

First stop was to the Alamo rental car agency so we could add Richard’s name to the paperwork so that they can share the driving.   We got parked up easily and went into Bagatelle for a lovely breakfast in very nice surroundings. Just a shame about the stroppy server who managed to spill stuff over Richard and onto the table, and then mopped it up with a dirty cloth in front of my plate while I’m still eating.   So we repaid him by only leaving a 12% tip – as opposed to the expected customary 20% here in the US – and his face clearly showed us what he thought of that!

Breakfast venue Breakfast selfie

We then headed off to get on the Conch Train to do the Key West tour.

Conch Tour Train

The seating was a bit awkward – especially for Ron and his longer legs – but we enjoyed listening to the history of the Conch Republic.

On the train 2 On the train 1

The history is quite varied with the Indian settlement; Flagler building his railway to connect the Keys to the mainland; a huge fire which wiped out 80% of the housing; hurricanes – one of which actually wrecked the railway before it was formally opened; the wreckers preying on ships; and the Cuban influence and cigar factories…. And, of course, don’t forget Hemingway and the architecture.   Was very interesting and we enjoyed it – but after an hour decided to get off and not get back on.

Key West tour Key West tour 2 Key West tour 3 Key West tour 4 Time to get off

We then wandered the entire length of Duval Street – with Richard getting arty with one of the hotel buildings – and ended up at the iconic milestone and had to queue with the rest of the tourists to get our photos….only 90 miles to Cuba which is our next destination when we leave Florida.

Artistic shot of La Concha hotel At the famous marker Next destination

I chatted to a police horse along the way and made some comment about him being the most photographed in the US – and the policeman said, no, the world!  A little full of himself but as he carries a gun I just laughed with him….

Making new friends in Key West

We stopped in a couple of hostelries on the way – including the Willy T which we assume is no relative of the Willy T in the BVIs – and admired the ceiling adorned with money covered with messages.

Ceiling of Willie T's

Finally back to the car and Richard drove us home.   Carolyn was surprised that we knew when we were half way or even how many miles we were away from our destination – then she realised we were reading the mile markers which actually mark off the miles.   Was a funny moment LOL.   When we got back, pretty weary, we decided to go straight out for an early dinner at the Fish House Encore.   Wow – looks like a shack from the exterior – but opens up to a large outside terrace. We got a table and had a wonderful meal…and the lamb was beautiful.

Dinner at Fish House Encore Fabulous food 1 Fabulous food 2

Thursday morning we headed out to Mrs Macs for breakfast.

At Mrs Macs

Then we continued south on US 1 to the Hilton Hotel.   This is on the bay side of the island and looks pretty nice – so thought this could be a bobbing beach for the future if the weather ever allows.   Well, we posed for photos and enjoyed the scenery, but didn’t actually fancy it.   The hotel seemed completely empty and had very little life.

At the Hilton bayside

So we went back to the Holiday Inn and again we went pool bobbing – followed by Jacuzzi bobbing. But the wind was biting and we all got a bit chilled so ended up in Skippers for a snack lunch.

We then went our separate ways for a few hours and I chilled while Richard fitted the dive tank under the chart table – looks pretty neat there…

Dive tank mounting

Later on Carolyn and Ron came on board for dinner – it was steak night – and it actually warmed up enough for us to spend the evening in the cockpit. We had a lovely evening.

Drinks in the cockpit

Friday morning we went to Bogies for their buffet breakfast – which is the restaurant inside the Holiday Inn.

Bogie's restaurant

Then we wandered off on foot to the local stores…. Was very wet from the overnight rain but had cleared for a little while – and spotted some interesting cars parked in the hotel car park.

Interesting cars Out for a walk

We got back and, of course, the heavens opened so we took shelter down below in Morphie and had a great time playing cards in the warm.

Afternoon on board Time for cards

Later on we went out to Skippers for dinner – as we wanted to listen to Scott play. We got a table and ordered drinks and food – but it got darker and darker and colder and colder as the wind picked up. Freezing actually!  So we headed inside for a couple of drinks before venturing outside again for Scott’s last set.

At Skippers Scott

Saturday morning and the wind picked up but the sky was blue.  There was a storm warning in place with 40+ mph winds forecast so we asked the marina guy to keep an eye on Morphie while we were gone.  We had put out extra lines and fenders anyway – and the slip is so tight she has nowhere to roam….  The marina were taking the warning seriously though as there were men up in the palms cutting down all the coconuts…

Clearing coconuts before the blow

Our destination this morning was the Everglades Alligator Farm. We had a good drive up – grabbed a coffee and snack breakfast – enjoying the sights of the baby alligators and salt-water crocodiles before getting first in line for the air boat ride into the shallow grasslands.

Salt water crocodile Baby alligators

Air boat

We had a fantastic ride on the airboat – did some 360s and got wet – and startled a few egrets along the way.   There were some great iguanas in the trees and we did actually see a wild alligator when we were driving along the shallows.  Oh yes and the hat tree for those that were lost overboard….    Was absolutely fantastic – but all of us would have liked to have gone a bit faster!!!   Oh yes, and the one with the sign is called MIC – “made in china” LOL.

Air boat selfie Into the grass Iguana up the tree Having fun Feet up - getting wet! Hat tree Having fun 2 Churning up the water Heading back On the airboatA wild oneMIC - made in ChinaWhen we got back we went to the alligator show – and hated it!   The alligator was dragged by his tail – hissing and moaning – from his slumber and then manhandled for the wrestling. We really didn’t enjoy it….

Unhappy alligator Alligator wrestling

Walking back to the car we saw emus, a sad panther, and some funny chickens.   Really this was just a sad zoo with some breeding going on – and no animal was harmed in the taking of this photo of Carolyn wrestling an alligator!   But the entry fee was worth it for the airboat ride alone…

Emu No alligator was harmed in the taking of this photo

Moving on we headed to the Winery – but sadly the tour wasn’t available for at least another 90 minutes and we didn’t feel we wanted to hang around.

WinerySo we headed off to the Everglades National Park. Was a really interesting place with loads of information about the ecosystem and watched a 15 minute film…. Loved it – and we didn’t have to pay either which was surprising….

Welcome to the Everglades

Everglades Trolley bus

Back in the car park and Ron fancied trading in the hire car….

Ron wants to trade his hire car

We drove back with the wind continuing to increase and stopped at Snooks for a beer. This is a bayside restaurant and, even with the shutters down, it was absolutely freezing!  So we enjoyed the bracing view and felt a bit sorry for those boats out there that were nodding vigorously in the 35 knot winds….   So we ended up back in Skippers for a late snack lunch.

Driving back to Key Largo Snooks

Later on we reconvened and went back to the Fish House.   It was rammed and we were sat in a table between an old couple who were just plain weird – and a group of girlies out having loud fun, even being too lazy (or drunk!) to crack their crab legs getting the server to do it for them.   Richard ordered a lobster bisque and we were surprised when it turned up first – he had actually finished it when Carolyn and Ron got their oysters.   Then the mains turned up – and they were only half way through their starters. All a bit shambolic – with the girls getting loud and the old woman telling her husband she couldn’t wait to get him home!!!!   We quickly exited left and headed back to Skippers having been out for less than an hour.   It was rammed – Scott had been cancelled because it was too cold outside – so we ended up back in Carolyn and Ron’s room drinking wine.   Later on we headed back to Skippers for our traditional pontoonies before finally giving in to tiredness.  Had been another great day.

This morning – Sunday – and we are doing domestic duties. Richard is tracing and labelling all fuses / cables for future reference. I’m doing laundry and the blog. It’s absolutely freezing so we are currently drinking hot chocolate LOL.   We have an exciting afternoon planned with Carolyn and Ron but I’m not going to spoil the surprise here…you’ll just have to wait until the next instalment. Bye for now.


Reunions in Key Largo

Tuesday afternoon we got the call that Dan and Ruth were on their way south, so we asked them to let us know when they checked into their hotel, which is across the canal from us. Then – surprise surprise – they knocked on the hull bearing birthday gifts. They’d tracked us down LOL.   We ended up going to Skippers for dinner and a catch up – but had an early night as they had been up since five.   Was great to see them again and can’t believe they have flown all the way from Wisconsin especially to see us.

Wednesday morning we met at nine and were all in jeans and jackets as it was cold and wet.   Oh well, never mind.   We drove just down the road for breakfast – admiring the huge shark on the wall in the car park.

Shark wall art

The name of the diner is Mrs Mac’s Kitchen which Richard thought was pretty funny as he has always said that I should open a Grenadian roadside Mrs Mac’s Curry Shack.   Had a lovely breakfast, I even got my own branded mug, and Richard and Ruth went mad and ate Alligator Sausages. Yes, seriously!   We had to sit outside because it was full but that didn’t dampen our spirits.

Mrs Mac at Mrs Macs Breakfast at Mrs Macs Must be my mug

We decided to drive down to Key West which is a 100 mile run south.   We had a comfort break along the way at the art village and admired the giant lobster statue – and fed some inquisitive squirrels.

Feeding squirrels Anyone for lobster Feeding squirrels 2

We enjoyed the ride across all the bridges but it was sad that the stunning views – according to the travel brochures – were not to be had on this grey day.   Then we ended up getting caught in a traffic jam for a while. Finally we arrived at Key West – we found the public car park, and went walking.   Richard found his own branded truck and Dan liked the sponge man…..

Mr Mac's Truck Sponge Dan

We enjoyed the views of the marina and the boardwalk and, couldn’t believe it when we bumped into Jim, ShaSha and Lois.   We had a quick chat – but they were heading off for cocktails and we’d only just arrived – so said farewell and carried on walking towards the famous Duval Street.

Marina views On the boardwalk Marina views 2

This is a really quirky place but we were on a mission – in search of rum.   Ruth found the distillery LOL and we had a quick look around before carrying on walking.

Looking for rum

There is some nice architecture and although we got wet, who cares, we were having fun.

Duval Street 1 Duval Street 2 Duval Street 3 Duval Street 4 Duval Street 5 Duval Street 6

We stopped in a couple of hostelries during the day – but the target was reached when we found the Rum Bar.   Dan is a bit of a rum connoisseur and he and Richard tried the tasting rum boat – the bartender was knowledgeable about the products although she didn’t appreciate the (very funny) wisecracks!  As you can see they thoroughly enjoyed themselves.

Rum testing boat Enjoying the rum tasting

We started our walk back towards the car park and we stopped for dinner on the boardwalk. Interesting menu – but we found the food a bit rich for our palate.

Dinner venue

Then it was time to drive home so Ruth got that job – and she did it brilliantly – and we were back around ten. Had been a very long day so we went our separate ways – but at least we’d managed to keep Dan awake beyond his usual 9.17 pm collapse time LOL.

Thursday morning it was still drizzly but a bit warmer – so we kept the jackets but ditched the jeans for shorts.   We went back to Mrs Macs Kitchen for breakfast and debated what to do…   After the long trek the day before we decided to stay local.   So we visited the Dive Shop / Napa / Walgreens and local restaurants – we wanted to check them out before we decided where to eat later.

Checking out the Fish House

We returned to Dan and Ruth’s hotel room and drank their beer – before heading off on the Princess II glass bottomed boat for a two hour trip.

Princess II boat

Despite the miserable day we all had fun – doesn’t get much better than being out on the water – even though it does seem a bit strange to pay for a boat trip when we live on one nine months of the year LOL.   We enjoyed the sights of going through the canal, across the sandbar, and into the channel followed by seagulls.

Heading out the canal Princess II selfie

Tourist boat waiting to come into the channel Followed by seagulls

We had a couple of beers and enjoyed the wind in our faces before we went down to the lower deck to look at the reef below.   We spotted the usual suspects – a lone turtle, a stingray, parrot fish, sergeant majors etc – and was glad to be in a warm environment rather than swimming with them…. Was a tad chilly!

Princess II trip Coral beneath the Princess

Inside the canal again

We thoroughly enjoyed this trip – saying hi to Morphie on the way back – and admired the skipper’s skill navigating the channel – particularly when we came across some idiots diving in the middle of the canal – really?   He shouted and screamed and they moved – but who goes diving in the equivalent of a shipping lane???!!!???  Madness – they were lucky not to get themselves killed.

Hi Morphie

Back on terra firma – having upset the pelican who was trying to sleep – we retired to Skippers to debate where to have dinner.

Pelican looking grumpy

The Bayside Grill won – so we had to get there early as they don’t take reservations – and made it about 5.30 so we could watch the sunset over the bay. Sadly, though, there wasn’t one as there was too much cloud cover. We all had fish and it was very good food.

Bayside Grill

Completely stuffed we left, returned to the hotel, and drank their lovely large hotel room dry LOL.   Then, our job was done, so we returned to Morphie. Actually it was only about eight when we turned in – had been a long day.

Friday morning and back to Mrs Macs.   It was chucking it down!   We managed to get seats inside luckily and had another great breakfast.

Back to Mrs Macs At Mrs Macs

When we left it was still raining so we headed off to see the John Pennekamp State Park.   We drove around and admired what views we could see but the rain just got heavier and heavier and heavier.   It was torrential…..and the sky was very black.

Wet state park Storm coming State park 2

We sought shelter in the aquarium and they had some great coral….but we thought the solo lion fish looked pretty sad as he knows everyone hates him. Not his fault he’s turned up in the wrong ocean – bless.   We then watched a short film – and were surprised to actually identify some strange critters than we had seen when diving but hadn’t been able to name up to now. That was an unexpected bonus.


Sad lion fish

Driving back to the hotel and the rain had stopped for a while and the sky had cleared a little.   So we picked up Dan and Ruth’s swimmers and went to Morphie for ours. Hmmmm, a tad optimistic, looks like the bobbing will have to wait. The skies darkened, we ran for cover, and we sheltered down below while the thunderstorm and torrential rain passed through.   So we played cards and drank beer – what else???  Was cut-throat, noisy and great fun – with Ruth winning the championship by a very large margin!

Rainy afternoon on board

Later on we headed out to The Fish House for dinner – was great food and nice ambience – and we arrived just in time at sixish to nab a table without a wait – people were queuing by the time we had eaten.  Back to the marina and we decided – as it was our last night together – to push the boat out and have final drinks in Skippers and listen to Scott, the songster from Wisconsin.

Last night Scott Last night 2

Had a very merry evening – including some song requests – and then we got our bill.   It was very expensive for Dark and Stormies and Sauvignon Blanc (in the smallest measure ever) and we were a bit surprised.   Lesson to self – order bottles of wine instead – much cheaper option.   It ended up quite a late night and we managed to keep Dan awake until eleven – another successful mission….

Saturday morning and it was Dan and Ruth’s last day.   They checked out of their hotel room and came on board for breakfast.   Then, all too soon, it was time to bid them a sad farewell….   Oh yes, and of course, the sun came out and the sky was blue.   What a shame!   We had an amazing time together which was full of fun and laughter. Thank you so much for coming down to visit – here’s to the next reunion, whenever / wherever it may be!

Richard then got busy doing small boat jobs. He soldered the contacts back on the holding tank indicator gauge so that is working again now;  then he changed the filter in the Seagull drinking water filtration system;  then he fixed securing hooks to the outboard petrol can so that it doesn’t spill underway in the dinghy; and, finally, fitted a stainless lifting handle to the engine compartment door.   I spend the time sorting our photos and drafting the blog.

Later on we glammed up and headed off in a taxi to Sundowners up the coast. We were meeting Tony and Melody – who we haven’t seen since 2012.   They used to have a catamaran – Utopia – that they ran luxury charters on in the BVIs so we often used to bump into them around the islands. They are down here in Key Largo for a long weekend celebrating her sister’s birthday. A great coincidence that we were in the same place at the same time – and we had a wonderful evening meeting Joy and Nick and catching up with all the news…..

Utopia reunion Joy & Nick

And they generously wouldn’t let us pay for anything either – thank you both soooo much. Was great to see you again and hopefully it won’t be so long next time!   It was a really fun evening.

This morning – Sunday – and we were woken early with a massive wind and rain event….with straining lines and creaking fenders on the pilings.   We estimate that we saw wind gusts around 50 knots – so was grateful that we were tied into a marina.   The wind is still gusting now but the worst seems to have passed.   There is a tornado warning in place too!!!   Sadly it appears that the west coast got hit with severe damage and loss of life – never underestimate the power of the weather for sure….   We are doing chores today as we get ready for another reunion tomorrow.

Carolyn and Ron are flying in from the UK today and will be joining us down here in the Keys for the Friends Reunited Tour 2016…   Very excited!

Bye for now


Biscayne Bay to Key Largo

Thursday night was our first on anchor for a while – and we were royally entertained by the beautiful sunset and the night skyline of Miami….   Just bliss.

Sun going down at anchor Sunset in Biscayne Bay Miami skyline

Friday morning we picked up anchor early and were making our way out towards the Hawk Channel as the sun was rising.   We motored past the lighthouse on the end of Biscayne Cay and alongside the abandoned fishing camp – devastated by a hurricane – which is known locally as Stiltsville.

Sun coming up Lighthouse on Biscayne Key Stiltsville

We entered the Hawk Channel and, yes of course, the wind has swung right on the nose and is stronger than forecast.   So we resigned ourselves to another motoring day but at least the seas were reasonable – getting some protection from the offshore reef – and we enjoyed working our way through the easy-to-spot channel markers and a bit of crab pot dodging. There wasn’t much traffic around although we were hailed on the radio by a large catamaran who was full of Island Packet owners on a charter – heading back inside as they were finding the conditions too rough for them.   We thought this was quite funny as we had found the conditions quite benign LOL.

We arrived at the entrance to the Key Largo Resorts – where the Marina del Mar is located – and it is low tide and around 4pm.   We were told by the harbourmaster to wait until the Princess II – a huge glass bottomed boat – had left the channel as she takes up most of the space. That’s fine by us!  So we circled and waited and, when Princess came through, we went in. A little nervous about the sandbar – especially as it was just after low tide – but made it in comfortably. Phew!

Key Largo resorts marina Into the canal

The canal is very narrow and we had to navigate around a blind bend called Crash Corner. Managed that and was waved to our slip by the dock master. The slip was very narrow with barely enough room to get in and Richard managed it perfectly – and I managed throwing ropes and catching pilings too. We are definitely getting better at these US-type marinas…..

Canal Key Largo

Richard cleaned Morphie up after our 50 mile passage – and I did all the marina paperwork and phoned customs to inform them of our movement down the coast. All sorted, all legal, and we chatted to our new neighbours before cleaning up, eating dinner and then heading to Skippers, our new local, for a few drinks.   Was a nice evening and great live music – including some Hendrix.

All clean again

Songster from Wisconsin

Saturday morning we had our complimentary breakfast – bagels, juice and coffee – and then wandered around the marina and its hotels.   There is the Marina del Mar hotel itself, which is a bit shabby, with a Holiday Inn and a Courtyard by Marriott across the way.   We enjoyed the sights of the pelicans and the egret waiting for the fishermen to return with their catch across the canal from Morphie.


Waiting for the fishermen Pelican 2

Morphie in her snug slip

As it was such a nice day, we spent a few hours at the Holiday Inn pool / Jacuzzi. Enjoyed it a lot although Richard couldn’t go in the water yet because of his leg…. The Holiday Inn definitely wins the best pool award

Trying out the Holiday Inn pool Trying out the Jacuzzi too

We returned to Morphie later in the afternoon where we just chilled – Richard taking advantage of the new marina address to order some more things, this time it was spare Barton blocks.   We then had a quiet night on board in the cockpit listening to the music from Skippers.

Sunday morning and we got busy – Richard fitted the new stainless transom shower caps – don’t they look nice!!!

New transom shower caps

I did the laundry….   The laundry here is shabby and only two washers and two driers – and the laundry walls were being painted around me, then the hotel cleaners came in to eat their lunch so I retreated to Morphie to wait.   Well…the driers were slow….and it took hours.   Finally by around 3pm we were done – and, of course, the sun had gone in and it was getting colder. So no pool for us…shame!   Later on we headed into Skippers for dinner….which was very popular…and we had to wait a while for a table.   We enjoyed our dinner and the live musician before heading back for a relatively early night.

More live music

Monday morning – and it’s my birthday – so I opened my cards and other messages from family and friends.   Then I phoned my mum as agreed for a chat and, for once, the line was clear and we had a lovely catch up.

Happy Birthday

Birthday cards

Then Richard got busy fixing some lights, ordering more spares, and I scanned and sent off all the medical documents to our travel insurance company.   The incidentals like drugs and taxis will be wiped out by the excess so we’ll not bother to claim for those – but at least they are picking up the hospital bill direct. We found it a very helpful and efficient service.

Later on Jim, ShaSha and Lois came by.   They treated us to a leisurely long lunch at Skippers – and gave me a very nice bottle of wine as a pressie – and then we returned to Morphie so Lois could meet her.   Had a lovely reunion – was great to see them again and we had many laughs. After they left we debated going out again but decided against it and had a chilled evening on board. And I mean chilled – it’s really cold here!!!! Blanket back on the bed again……sigh….

Skippers Me, Jim and ShaSha Richard and Lois

This morning – Tuesday – and we are waiting for the pump out boat to come by to empty our holding tank. We are also waiting for a message. Dan and Ruth – formerly of the Manta catamaran Evensong – are flying down from Wisconsin just to see us and we are eagerly awaiting their arrival. We haven’t seen them since August 2014 so looking forward to catching up.    There are other reunions planned too – so watch this space!

Bye for now


Exploring Coconut Grove, Miami

Sunday we wandered around Coconut Grove and enjoyed the art galleries, the bookstores and the array of shops selling everything from antique tea-sets through to batik clothing. Our only purchase, however, was two lids for our Tervis beakers LOL.   We were planning on walking to West Marine but became unsure about the safety of the neighbourhood as it suddenly became quite rundown – so we retraced our steps to leave that for another day when we have acquired some local knowledge.

We were weather watching closely as the forecast was for a low to come through on Tuesday / Wednesday and we needed to decide what to do – the mooring field here in Dinner Key is pretty exposed so can, apparently, get a little lumpy….   But that decision is for another day.

We continued exploring the town, admiring the expensive cars parked all around, and decided to grab a late lunch at Sandbar Sports Bar – was very busy as it was NFL day and the Miami Dolphins were playing the New England Patriots. We got a seat and soaked up the atmosphere which was pretty loud and lively with rival fans goading each other. We ordered a burger – when in Rome and all that – and had a couple of beers.   Was good fun and we were glad that the Miami Dolphins won just for the sake of keeping the peace!

Bentley Porsche


Moving on we continued to wander around looking at the different architecture – this part of Miami has a European feel to it with all the tables and chairs on the pavements enticing you into different eateries.   There are also some very fancy apartment blocks and ceramic peacocks are everywhere – not sure of their significance though.

Coconut Grove 1 Coconut Grove 2 Coconut Grove 3 Coconut Grove 4 Coconut Grove 5 Coconut Grove 6 Coconut Grove 7Peacock

Late afternoon – partly to avoid the rain honest – we went for a sundowner in another sports bar Duffy’s and were amazed to find it was two beers for $6, all day every day.   This is definitely going to be our new favourite haunt LOL.

Rainy day Duffys

We headed back to Morphie before dark as we had no lights with us and had a quiet evening on board. It was so cold during the night – even with all hatches closed and fans off – that we dug out the blanket again.

Back before dark Back before dark 2

Monday morning and we were up bright and early again – and were delighted by the sight of manatees lounging around at the dinghy dock.   We love seeing these creatures – just a shame that the water is a bit murky so not able to get any photos.

My main task today was to get our ‘phone activation kit’ working so that we would have an internet hotspot on board when in remoter anchorages as we continue travelling south. So we headed into the marina lounge and inserted the AT&T SIM card into the Samsung – did the activation on line as instructed – and, of course, it didn’t work.

View from Dinner Key Marina lounge

Taking it out again to check and we realised that, although the SIM card was the right size, the contact area on the back was significantly smaller than the UK one we had removed.   A Verizon SIM card in the pack had the same contact area so we phoned StraightTalk to swap them out – but they said this was for CDMA phones only and ours is GSM so it wouldn’t work. Grrrrr….. This is despite their marketing which says it will work with our specific type of unlocked phone – and which we got double checked for us by the technical guy at Walmart. So I asked for a refund. I got passed from pillar to post – three different operators who all asserted that the SIM card would work it was just us being stupid – and I finally got them to agree to a refund.   But only if I returned the whole kit with the original purchase receipt and, of course, we purchased this from Walmart in Fort Pierce with our Christmas shopping and, once the bill had gone through on the credit card, we’d dumped the receipt. So no receipt – now what. Finally we were told go away, no receipt no refund, why don’t you sell it to a friend to use instead?!?   Great – thanks a lot – $45 down the tubes and took almost an hour phone call to get to this point.   Pretty fed up….

Moving on, and debating other phone / internet options, we went for a walk through the pretty gardens – admiring the outside gyms that seem to be a feature of a lot of public parks here – and ended up at the Miami City Hall which was originally the PanAm terminal for their seaplanes.   A lovely place and would have liked to see inside but obviously not open to the public…

Lovely walks Miami City Hall 1 Miami City Hall 2 Outdoor gym

Walking on we ended up at Fresh Market and did some shopping – fantastic deli / cheese section and plan to visit here again before we leave.

Fresh Market

Then we meandered back into town and found an ATM so got some new drinking vouchers and a pharmacy so that we could replenish the medical supplies that had been used patching the guy up in Fort Lauderdale. Then we spotted an AT&T store which couldn’t help us without a contract – but did tell us another place to go nearby. We crossed the road and a German Shepherd dog – being held very loosely by a young girl – lunged and tried to bite me on the leg as I walked past. She had no control over the dog at all and it was quite a scary moment.

We ended up in Metro PCS and they sold us a SIM card for one month – no contract needed – with unlimited data, texts, calls etc – and actually activated it there and then in the shop so we could check it all worked by connecting our iPad to it.   Great service – thanks – definitely the way to go!

We were on the way back to the marina and decided to have sundowners at Duffys again and then back on board for dinner and an early night.   We discussed pulling into the marina on Tuesday if the weather kicked up as forecast but decided that $2.85 a foot was a little rich for a marina with no facilities above the $25 cost of a mooring ball – other than access to land in poor weather. But the forecast appears to have moderated with winds 20-25 knots now rather than the 30+ knots forecast a few days ago – so we decided to stay put rather than move to another anchorage.

Tuesday morning and we awoke to a wet and windy day….and the weather has kicked in….and the gusts are around 25 knots so the forecast was pretty accurate. It is raining hard and the sea is churning. But the movement on board isn’t bad – just nodding.

Rainy day on board Not a nice day

So we did some domestic chores followed by a lazy afternoon followed by a movie evening on board. Oh yes and this was the day that our wind generator increased his personal best to 137 ampere hours in 24 hours – a new record…

Wednesday morning and the weather remained pretty cold and cloudy although the wind had started to abate. After Richard had showered we redressed his wound and this isn’t healing up and looks infected to me – so patched it up – and we went ashore to seek medical assistance.   Skip the next photo if you are squeamish!

Ugly wound

The nearest hospital was Mercy Hospital so we ended up getting a cab there as it was too far to walk.

Mercy Hospital

The service was amazing – very little time waiting – before he was being wheeled in to a side room.   They quickly assessed him – we were hoping for a few stitches to close up the wound but they said they could only do stitches up to six hours after the accident.  They recommended that it was left open anyway as the wound was infected – but had not spread beyond the immediate area – so just antibiotic creams and tablets needed and it would heal on its own.  We got a huge printout about wound management too – which was exactly what I’d been doing all along.

Happy patientThat’s a relief…… So we left, got another cab back into town to the nearest pharmacy, picked up the prescriptions and headed back to Morphie.   We had another early night to keep warm!

Thursday morning – and what a difference a day or two makes!   Beautiful blue skies, flat calm seas and the sun came out to play. We are moving on today but decided first to return to Fresh Market for more provisions as they had such lovely food and – with friends coming out to see us soon – we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get some good cheese.   On the way into the marina we saw all these high performance dinghies getting ready to go out and play – and realised that they were the national teams preparing for the world championships….   We met the British girls and wished them good luck.

Going out to practiceView out from the dinghy dock

Back to Morphie we got ready to go to the dock to have a pump out of our holding tank – to find it wasn’t working. Oh well….never mind…. We slipped away from our mooring around lunchtime – said farewell to the Dinner Key mooring field and marina – and headed out into Biscayne Bay.

Goodbye Dinner Key Leaving Dinner Key Mooring Field

We were accompanied by some of the Canadian sailing team and then were treated to a great view of Miami and pelicans flying in formation.   It doesn’t get much better than this – just need some wind!!!

Canadian Team practising Goodbye Miami

Pelicans flying in formationWe arrived at the end of Biscayne Key shortly and worked our way into No Name Harbour where we hoped to spend the night. Unfortunately it was full and there was no room at the inn…..   We pondered our next move so went around the corner to the south west point where we have now anchored amongst the luxury waterfront properties and huge motoryachts – in good company tonight….

Biscayne Key

Tonight's anchorage

Tomorrow – Friday – we are setting sail for Key Largo, where we have a reservation in the marina for a while.   Bye for now


Fort Lauderdale to Miami

Wednesday afternoon we went exploring and were surprised at how busy everything was. We enjoyed walking the palm-lined boulevard and watching the sea crashing into the shore whilst the lifeguards were fighting a losing battle to keep the masses of people out of the water.

Fort Lauderdale beach

Beachfront boulevard

We were soon hot and bothered – and hungry – so looked for a shady spot in a restaurant to have something to eat.   We chose Tsaruko as we fancied the Asian-fusion menu of small plates to share.   We enjoyed the food, the people watching and the huge cruise ship leaving town bound for the Bahamas.

Bahamas bound

We returned to Morphie about five and had a lazy few hours. About nine we headed out again to sample some of the night life.   We took a pew in the Rock Bar and watched the world go by.

Rock Bar

Well….think a cross between Benidorm and Blackpool….with local bars full of burnouts and tourist places getting everyone drunk on massive 40 ounce $20 cocktails.   Was very interesting to see the quick change in demeanour from quiet and reserved to high fiving, back slapping, giggling, whooping and hollering, self-obsessed youngsters – although, to be fair, the bars were checking IDs, and we were upset they didn’t ask for ours LOL.   Oh yes, and all this was being preserved for posterity as they had their heads buried in their phones most of the time.   Messages being sent must have included ‘Look, I’m having a wonderful time!”

Boulevard by night Monster cocktails

FL nightlife

Having walked the strip before we turned in for the night – and looking at all the food options available having found out there was no official firework display / party – we decided to book a table in Tsaruko for New Year’s Eve.

Thursday morning and we were up early to go downtown. We planned to buy a day pass on the Sun Trolley bus but, after a 30 minute wait for a bus that was scheduled at 9.30 am, we hailed a passing cab which dropped us off at the New River Walk.   We wandered around and followed the river – very pretty and interesting to see the boats lining the path. These are the downtown docks that we had decided against and were glad that we had made that decision when we realised there was no security here at all – and very little amenities unless you count the single Irish pub!

New River New River 2

We then wandered to the shopping district of Las Olas Boulevard and found a coffee shop for elevenses.  Two huge sickly muffins later we carried on walking – enjoying the architectural sights along the way – with traditional and modern side by side.   The economy must be doing well as there was evidence of lots of new construction and every fifth person appeared to be driving high-end sports cars – this is Porsche city LOL.

Shopping district Modern skyscrapers Shopping district 2

We went into a few stores and enjoyed visiting some art galleries – unusual and pretty stunning stuff but not very practical for a boat. We carried on walking in the direction of the beach and kept an eye out for the illusive lesser-spotted trolley bus.   Well, we walked and walked and nothing came along – so we just carried on walking – and covered more than seven miles in total back to Morphie, via a chandlery off course! But we enjoyed seeing the canals and large water-fronted properties along the way before crossing the ICW via the Las Olas Bridge.

Canals Canals 2 Canals 3 ICW

Back on board we put our feet up for the remainder of the afternoon to recharge our batteries for New Year’s Eve. We were laying on the bed reading and all of a sudden we hear a thud and cries for help…serious screams… We ran outside to find a guy with his legs trapped by the huge engine compartment locker on the large motor yacht besides us.   It took two guys – one of them being Richard – to lift this heavy locker cover up and release him. Then it was tea towels, gauzes, bandages and medical gloves to the ready to deal with the guy who skin had been completely ripped open exposing his knee and leg bones for at least four inches across and two inches down – as well as another nasty gash on the other leg.   Very gory!   Luckily a medically-trained young woman on the adjacent boat took control with us feeding her supplies from our first aid kit while she tended to his wounds.   The injured guy was very composed – probably in shock – and made his own 911 call and phoned both the boat’s owner and his wife. It took a while for the medics to show up and once they’d assessed the situation and patched him up they walked him off the boat – which we were amazed at – before placing him on a gurney and taking him off.   Not a very happy New Year for the guy – who we think was a professional skipper. Meanwhile the boat owner’s son – who had shouted ‘sorry man’ and had hidden inside the boat throughout all of this – came out, turned on the hose, and started cleaning all the blood up while we all stood there in stunned silence.   Later on we heard the kid’s parents come back to the boat – but stayed out of the way. Potential law suit I would have thought especially as, according to the marina guy the following morning, the accident appears to have been caused by the inadequate fitting of a hydraulic strut on the boat which failed and tore away from its mounting.

Later on – feeling a little shaken up – we headed out again to the beach stopping first at The Drunken Taco for a drink before going over to Tsurako to take up our table.

Drunken Taco

It was on the pavement so a little hot but far enough back to be out of the way of the crowds… We had a wonderful meal – really authentic Asian cuisine particularly the Pad Thai – was going to take photos but too hungry LOL.

Still 2015 Busy New Year Busy New Year 2 Busy New Year 3

Close to midnight our server handed out party hats and people were getting in the mood.   The streets were teeming and lots of people were on the beach waiting for fireworks – not realising that the local council had vetoed a large display.   Some individuals set off fire crackers and aerial bombs but that was it. Everyone was in a party mood and we didn’t see any trouble despite the huge drinks being consumed… At the magic hour the road was closed and the street was full of people celebrating.

Happy New Year Party mood Happy New Year 2

We finally returned to Morphie around two am with Richard stopping for his box of chocolates Forrest Gump photo on the way…. Happy New Year everyone – may all your hopes and dreams come true.

Box of chocolates

Friday morning I did laundry while Richard thoroughly cleaned Morphie inside and out; topped up the water tank; and did pre-passage engine checks. Oh yes and the freezer is in a stable condition so hopefully this is fixed finally – but we’ll not be certain until we are on battery power as it can get affected by voltage fluctuations.   We are moving out of here on Saturday and, if there is room in the inn, we’ll be in a mooring field so had better start getting used to conserving power and water again!

Morphie all cleaned up

Later in the afternoon we wandered the beach for a while and were amazed by the number of people around – obviously a Bank Holiday and it’s hot and sunny – but this was sardine city!   Slightly overwhelmed we headed back to the boardwalk and found a quiet spot away from the madness and mayhem – watching the world go by and some straight joggers… and blinged up motors.  Oh yes, and loads of trolley buses today, not sure where they were hiding on Thursday.

Sardine city Sardine city 2 People watching Jogger Blinged up car

Trolley bus

Back onboard Morphie we had a quiet evening, did our passage planning, and had an early night.

Saturday morning we were up early and left the slip in time to make the nine am bridge opening…. We were very pleased that Colin, our autopilot, was back in the room!   On the way to the bascule bridge we were in a long line of boats going out and there was a lot of traffic around.   Finally it opened and we passed through – being overtaken of course by a number of fast motor yachts and fishing boats in a no-wake, manatee zone. Hmmmm….

Waiting for 17th Street bridge to open Through the bridge

We went out through the Port Everglades cut into the Atlantic – wow!   Beautiful day…. Hot, sunny, blue skies, flat water just shame that there was no wind. Seriously not even enough to deploy our whisker pole – less than 2 knots…   Never mind, we settled down to motor along the coast enjoying the sights of the sky scrapers and watching out for other marine traffic which was darting around all over the place – no sense of any ‘rules of the road’ and certainly no radio etiquette.   There was swearing at each other – there were coastguard calls – and general mayhem on channel 16.   Lots of distress calls but most people didn’t know their lat and long nor their position; there were sinkings with people in the water; there was a fire on board one vessel; there were people needing a tow as they had lost engine power and others who just said ‘hello’ expecting the radio to act like a telephone. Lots of coastguard calls ensued to the rest of us asking us to look out for things…   Not quite the quiet environment we expected.

Motoring along the coast

We approached Government Cut into Miami around one o’clock and loved the sights of the buildings lining the beach.

Coastline of Miami

Lots of marina calls on the radio now to add to the chaos. As we turned into the channel we were cut up from behind, port and starboard with huge motorboats steaming through at high speed churning the water up and making us bob around like corks coming out of a bottle. Thanks guys!   One guy – obviously on a sailboat had had enough – he called them all a**holes and asked the Coastguard to deal with it. The Coastguard asked him to switch away from 16 – along with berating loads of others who took to chatting on this channel.

Turning into Government Cut Miami

We needed to turn to port across the turning basin to go through the Port of Miami and suddenly realised that a huge container ship had left his slip – so we were going to stay put until he put out a two signal blast which in the UK meant that he is turning to port.   So we swiftly went across his bow to get out of his way – and all the boats were scattered just trying to get to safety. You would have thought that a ship of this size would have put out a securite warning to let us know that his movement was imminent??? And lo and behold he continued on dead ahead too….

Crossing bow of Jack London Jack London going through

Anyway – completely stressed out – we continued through the port and then had to find our way through the confusion of markers to go alongside Claughton Island into the channel to take us down to the Rickenhauser Causeway Bridge.   The channel is narrow and you have to pay careful attention as you don’t have to stray far before you are very quickly in shallow water, which we found to our embarrassment although we avoided running aground. Finally we were under the bridge – supposedly with more than 15 feet above our mast but certainly didn’t seem like that much!

Towards the fixed bridge

Thankfully we were then in the shallow waters of Biscayne Bay and we made our way towards the narrow Dinner Key channel. They confirmed they had a mooring ball for us and we wound our way slowly in and found our allocated ball.   Phew – lesson learnt – don’t do passages on a bank holiday weekend in Florida!!!

We then tried to contact customs to let them know of our movement and they kept cutting me off. So we radioed the marina to find out about the free launch service but they stop at five in the afternoon so we decided to take dink in so that we could explore a little.   We went ashore – paid for our mooring ball for a couple of days in advance – and then had a quick wander.   We liked the look and feel of this upscale area of Miami and are looking forward to exploring properly in the next few days.   Meanwhile we headed back to Morphie for a quiet evening on board – and we finally got through to customs – before turning in.

This morning – Sunday – and we awoke to this view from the mooring field.  Off exploring later…..

View from Dinner Key mooring field

Bye for now