Glenns Gone Sailing Rotating Header Image

April, 2010:

The Party’s Over – Time to Begin our Journey Northward

After a quick breakfast at a waterfront café, we walked to the bus stop at the corner of Front and Duvall Street. At the last minute, I remembered that while we were in Key West we were going to get a Conch Republic flag for our boat. Fortunately, there was a souvenir shop close to the bus stop and the task was expediently accomplished. We were on the bus at 9:30 AM headed toward Bahia Honda and our beloved White Swan. (“Beloved” probably sounds a bit overly stated to non-boaters; but to those of us who cherish the experiences our boats provide, the term is on the verge of inadequacy.

We arrived at Bahia Honda State Park at noon and a short time later we were on our way to Marathon. Unlike, the previous two times we tried to navigate Hawks Channel in rough, unmanageable water, the ocean provided calm seas. The trip was uneventful (yeah) and we arrived at Marathon around 4:00 PM. The three Gemini sister-ships, Lady Bug, Lily Pad and White Swan were once again united. We gladly accepted Ed and Cheryl’s invitation to come aboard Lady Bug and enjoy a movie, Momma Mia, with them.


The next morning, we left Marathon, to continue northward. The hot afternoon was exaggerated by the light wind. The light wind also imposed motoring upon us, rather that sailing. A quiet evening was spent at our anchorage for the night, Jewfish Hole, behind Fiesta Key and the KOA campground. Fortunately, the store at the campground sells ICE CREAM.


There was enough wind today to motor-sail to Islamorada. We anchored in the Lorelie Anchorage. We took the dinghy to shore in search of fresh vegetables and meat. After successfully accomplishing that task, we went on a search for diesel, finding the Worldwide Sport Fishing Marina. This is an awesome place with a huge store (a fisherman’s dream) which houses a replica of Ernest Hemingway’s boat, Pilar. They also have a large aquarium with lots of tropical fishes. Their best amenity is the restaurant, which all of us returned to for dinner and live entertainment. The six of us had a wonderful evening of good food, fun and laughter.


Rainy and overcast. We’ve decided to stay put at Lorelie’s Anchorage. We checked the cruising guide to if there was anything of interest that we might want to do. There is a Dive History Museum and a Sea Encounter, but we decided to do neither. Since we’ve enjoyed this area, we’re sure to return and possibly consider these tourist attractions then. Good day to just veg-out on the boat.
































Jean’s Birthday at Key West – The Key for Partying


We decided we’d better not leave White Swan unattended on the hook (anchored) while we were gone overnight to Key West, so we motored her into the small marina at Bahia Honda State Park and rented dockage for the night.

Nancy told me about the nice showers at the campground that is just around the corner from the marina, so I slipped into the shower house and splurged with a leisurely shower for my birthday.  It was a hot, humid morning, so the tepid water of the shower was invigorating.

The morning greeted us with a gentle breeze that kept us comfortable as we walked to the bus stop that is just outside the entrance of the Bahia Honda State Park.  There is a bus transit system that runs the full length of the Keys, which makes traveling from one Key to another fairly easy.  When you don’t have your own car or you don’t have the time required to go where you want to go via your boat, the Key‘s bus system is a great alternative.  In talking with some people on the bus, we were informed a significant part of the Key’s population uses the inexpensive bus transit system because they have lost their cars during hurricanes.

Seeing an area by land is very different than going there by water.  There is a totally different ambience to any place when you go there by water.  However, it was a good experience to see the lower Keys strictly by land. On the bus ride to Key West we spotted the anchorage we used at Newfound Harbour, which was as far south, in the Florida Keys, as we got with White Swan.

Since Nancy lived in the Keys years ago, she pointed out places of interest to us while we rode on the bus to Key West. She stepped into the role of tour guide for the rest of the day, taking us to some of her favorite places.  The first restaurant we went to for lunch is one of the local’s favorites.  Pepe’s is a quaint little restaurant, half of which is outside with a crude leaky roof and dirt floor.  It was raining while we were there, so while we waited for a table we huddled next to the bar which offered protection from the inclement weather.  Going to eclectic places like Pepe‘s, is always a special experience from the norm.

Finding a place to spend the night was our next thing to do.  Nancy suggested different places she knew about and after checking out the Galleon, we made reservations to stay there.  Even the least expensive lodging in downtown Key West is expensive, around $200 a night.  Since we only stayed one night and this was my birthday present from Gary, we didn’t spend a lot of time looking for the absolute cheapest lodging in town.  Our room at the Galleon was comfortable and very near Mallory Square, which we planned on visiting during the evening hours.

Duval Street is “the” street in Key West. We spent most of the day traversing this street, frequenting various shops of interest to us. Jimmy Buffet’s Margaretville was one of our favorites.

We also went on a tour of Ernest Hemingway’s fabulous house with it’s inground swimming pool and beautiful gardens. We saw lots of six toed cats, decendents of Hemingway‘s own. Even before Mr. Hemingway had six toed cats, they were considered to bring good luck to sailor’s. These good luck symbols jumped ship and began populating Key West. They roam freely today, and are still regarded as good luck.

After appetizers and a drink at another haunt of Nancy’s, On The Roof,  we parted ways.  They needed to catch the bus back to Bahia Honda and we walked around, visiting shops until it was time to go to Mallory Square to watch the sunset.  Most people visiting Key West attend the daily ritual of watching the sunset at Mallory Square.  It’s reputation did not disappoint us.  Street entertainers were everywhere throughout the square, bidding an audience.  Tips from the spectators are customary and expected, so the larger the audience each entertainer acquires, the more they are rewarded if they present a good show.

After we were mesmerized by the beauty of the sunset over the ocean, we went to dinner at A&B Lobster House, which is a five star restaurant at the harbor.  The meal was great, as expected, but there was a loud, highly intoxicated, group in the restaurant.  The remaining patrons verbally expressed relief when this obnoxious group left as we were tempted to applaud their exit.  Subsequently, the rest of the time spent at this lovely restaurant was delightful.

Gary and I had a memorable time in Key West celebrating my birthday.












Second Visit to Bahia Honda State Park


Our unplanned return to the lovely island of Bahia Honda Key, allowed us to experience it more thoroughly than our initial visit there.  For that reason, we are glad our plans to return to Marathon yesterday did not come to fruition.  The other reason we stayed two more days on this island is because the wind became so intense it made H awk Channel unbearably rough.  We soon found out in our attempts to go out into the channel that the ride back to Marathon, enabling us to reunite with Ed and Cheryl, would be a very uncomfortable three to four hour journey.  So, we waited for the wind to lessen and I was able to guide Gary to all the fascinating places I visited the day before.

Nancy and Sandy told us about a small museum in the park and we visited it as well.  There we learned more about the indigenous plants of the island, watched a video of the making of the original great railroad of the Keys built by Henry Flagler, received numerous pieces of informative literature regarding the island, and a presentation of wild birds via taxidermy.  One of the “stuffed” birds displaced in a glass case, all by itself, was a tall great white heron.  We’ve never seen a great white heron in the wild, nor did we know they existed.  It’s amazing how much we don’t know.  And traveling aboard White Swan to new places has given us a wonderful opportunity to learn new things.

Since we were unable to get back to Marathon, and celebrate my birthday tomorrow with Ed and Cheryl as well as the present company of Sandy and Nancy, we decided to do Plan B.  Nancy, Sandy, Gary and I are going to take the bus to Key West for my birthday celebration.  Our friends will spend the day with us and then return to Bahia Honda Key while we spend the night in Key West.  It’s too far to take our boats there for one day, and we would risk getting “holed up” there for days on end because of the strong winds.  Taking the bus is the best option with the weather as it is.  Since we can’t be in the Bahamas for my birthday, I’m thrilled to get to go to Key West.

Snorkeling at Looe Key


Note:  Looe is pronounced “Lou”.

Today Gary and I ventured out into the Hawk Channel aboard White Swan without an escort (Lady Bug or Lily Pad).   We checked the weather and it was suppose to be a nice calm day. We studied our paper charts and followed our GPS directly to Looe Key. All without incident. YEAH for the Glenns!

Snorkelers at Looe Key

When we arrived at Looe Key around 11:00 AM, there were already a few tour boats there with excited snorkelers swimming in the waters around the reefs.  Mooring balls are provided at no charge at Looe Key so boater’s anchors won’t damage the fragile reefs.

We easily picked up a mooring ball line and got on our wet suits, snorkel masks and fins and I was the first one in the crystal clear blue water.  Even though I’m hesitant to get in the water just anywhere, you take me to a reef to snorkel and usually I’m one of the first to jump in to see the fishes and coral.  I love it!  So does Gary.

The day could not have been more perfect for snorkeling.  As I said in the previous paragraph, the water was crystal clear, so the visibility was excellent. Gary’s guess is we could probably see for 50 feet or more.  The water was relatively calm with manageable swells.

There was an abundance of different species of fish around the large reef of Looe Key.  We saw queen angels, different kinds of parrot fishes,  sergeant majors,  barracudas,  yellow tail snappers, and many other species. The most exciting fish we saw was a huge jewfish (also know as goliath grouper) that was hanging out under our boat.  It must have been at least four feet long and weigh over 200 pounds.  (We later read in our fish guide they can grow up to six feet long and weigh 600 pounds.)  We stared face to face with it for a few minutes.  It did not scare us because it showed no signs of aggressiveness.  But, trust me when I say, I kept both of my eyes on its huge mouth just in case it started to open…

Crystal clear water showing reef at Looe Key

There were very few hard corals at this reef.  However, we saw numerous soft corals, including big purple fans.  When we scuba dive or snorkel in the British Virgin Islands, we often see flamingo tongues (pretty pink spotted snails) attached to the purple fans, so we both looked for them at Looe Key, but neither of us found any.

We snorkeled for almost an hour before getting back on the boat to eat something for lunch.  Then we got back in the water and enjoyed looking at all the reef presented to us for another hour before getting back aboard White Swan and motoring to our evening’s anchorage.

Sunset over Big Pine Key at Newfound Harbour

Captain Gary’s study of the charts led us to an anchorage off  Big Pine Key named Newfound Harbor.  We successfully navigated directly to it without incident and we anchored for the night.  Yeah, we did it all by ourselves.  ‘Intimidation” of the Florida Keys is no longer in the Glenn’s vocabulary.  “Respect” yes, “intimidation” no.  The finale for the day was the magnificent sunset we were privileged to witness.  We have yet to lose interest in the sunsets and sunrises over the water.  I only wish pictures or an artist’s brush could truley capture the beauty of what we have seen in real life.

Talk about feeling like we are in the Bahamas…today certainly made us feel like we are there.  Being “over there” couldn’t possibly offer any more enjoyment than our experience today as we snorkeled at Looe Key and then saw tonight’s sunset.  We thoroughly enjoyed our day today.


We enjoyed snorkeling so much yesterday, we decided to stop by Looe Key and snorkel some more before heading back to Marathon on Vaca Key to reunite with Cheryl and Ed.

The wind was a little stronger this morning and was suppose to pick up a little more in the afternoon.  We got to Looe Key around 10:30 in the morning and by the time we arrived, the wind’s contribution to the swells increased their size.  We felt we could still comfortably snorkel even with the swells, so we donned our snorkel gear and jumped in.  The water was rather silty due to the wind and swells, but we could still see enough to enjoy the snorkeling.  We did so for about an hour and then we returned to the boat for lunch before getting underway.

The seas offered a rougher ride than what we anticipated, as the wind continued to get stronger.  The bumpy ride was getting more and more uncomfortable as we were nearing Bahia Honda Key.  Then the engine starting acting up, and actually stalled one time.  Both of those factors played a part in our decision to change our destination of Marathon and return to Bahai Honda Key instead.  (Plan A is to have Plan B.)

While going through the narrow passage of Flagler’s old railroad bridge, we held our breath as the engine sputtered a bit.  Thankfully, White Swan was good to us and got us safely back to the Bahia Honda State Park anchorage.

Sandy and Nancy were still at the anchorage and Sandy came over and helped Gary check one of the fuel tanks for contaminates.  There was nothing wrong with the fuel in the tanks, but some water was found in the bowl of the fuel filter.  They surmised the intermittent performance of the engine was due to the bouncing of the boat and droplets of water getting into the fuel pump.

View of Bahia Honda State Park from Flagler's old railroad bridge.

Geckoes on butterfly house in butterfly garden at Bahia Honda State Park

While the guys were working on the engine, I took a pleasure trip to shore and snorkeled at the beach, walked up to a scenic lookout on the old Flagler railroad bridge, went for a walk through the butterfly garden, and enjoyed an ice cream cone purchased at the state park’s gift shop.  “Alone time” is a rarity when a couple is cruising on a boat, and I have to admit I thoroughly enjoyed it.  It also gave me opportunity to really check out the amenities of the island, which we did not do the first time we were at Bahia Honda Key.

Bahia Honda State Park


Note: Bahia is pronounced, “Bay-ah” by the locals.

White Swan at Bahia Honda Key

We no more than reunited with the sailors aboard Lady Bug, when White Swan and Lily Pad headed further south to Bahia Honda Key, which is the first island of the Lower Keys.  Nancy used to frequently go to Bahia Honda Key to the state park when she lived in the Keys years ago.  She became the resident Keys expert at this point.  She gave us numerous pointers on what to do and see while we were in the Lower Keys.  She and Sandy planned on going to Bahia Honda Key after Vaca Key and she suggested we might like to go there as well, after I was voiced my desire to see sandy beaches instead of mangrove swamps.  Bahia Honda Key has some one of the few natural sandy beaches in the Keys.  I mistakenly imagined the Florida Keys to be nothing but sandy beaches and palm trees.  Not so.  However, the Lower Keys have more beaches than the Middle and Upper Keys.  My personal opinion is, if you want nothing but sandy beaches and ocean, you might as well stay on the east coast of Florida.

On the way to Bahia Honda Key, we stopped by Sombrero Key which is a reef with a lighthouse on it.  Even though it is called a key, there is no land visible above the water.  Sombrero Key is used as a snorkeling site and there are mooring balls provided there at no charge so boaters won’t damage the fragile reefs with their anchors.  Lily Pad and White Swan were secured to mooring balls and then the four of us enjoyed snorkeling in the clear blue water.  There were lots of fish, soft coral and sea fans at this site, but very few hard corals.

Lily Pad led the way into the anchorage at Bahia Honda Key.  The reef, that is at the beach of the state park, jets way out into the channel and close attention must be given to avoiding it as you navigate your way through the opening of the old Henry Flagler railroad bridge which allows entrance into the harbor at the park.  We were thankful for Lily Pad leading us into this tricky entrance.  After successfully anchoring in the harbor, Gary and I took our dinghy to shore and tied it up to a piling in the marina while we took a walk along the water’s edge on one of the beaches on Hawk Channel at Bahia Honda State Park.  The water displayed different shades of blue, with the lighter pastel blue being the most shallow.  Some people were snorkeling over the reef in the waist high water.

Beach on ocean side at Bahia Honda State Park

Further up the coastline is another beach, unseen from the beach at the state park, which is a topless beach.  We passed the topless beach as we sailed down Hawk Channel, but we were a couple of miles away and unable to see the people (even with binoculars).  Nor did we walk far enough to reach that beach.  A third beach on the island was at the harbor where we anchored for the night.  This beach has buoys in the water lining the designated swimming area, warning the boaters to stay away.

Cheryl (left) and Ed behind her; Nancy (right) and Sandy behind her

There is a small marina at the state park and they run snorkeling trips from there, taking people out to a huge reef called Looe Key.  Gary and I located Looe Key on our charts and decided we would venture out on our own tomorrow and go there.  It will be the first time since we’ve been in the Keys that we will navigate somewhere by ourselves.  Actually, sailing in the Florida Keys was a little intimidating for us at first.  The paper charts are not the most user friendly and you have to know how to get from point A to point B using the paper charts because the GPS only shows a limited amount on the screen.  We are very thankful to have had such good mentors to introduce us to sailing in the Keys, namely Ed and Cheryl Byers, and, Sandy and Nancy Graves.  Gary and I think we could have mastered it by ourselves, but having the others to guide us certainly made our first trip here a lot easier.  Thanks to their tutorage, we now feel we could come back again and successfully navigate the Keys on our own.

Clear blue sky and royal blue ocean

Regarding our sail down Hawk Channel: Today is the first time we have actually sailed outside the ICW.  Hawk Channel runs on the outside (ocean side) of the chain of islands comprising the Florida Keys.  Obviously, the ICW runs on the inside of the islands, making it more protected from the wind and waves of the Atlantic Ocean.  There is a barrier reef between Hawk Channel and the Atlantic Ocean, which minimizes the swells (waves) coming from the ocean.  However, Hawk Channel is not nearly as protected as the ICW and navigating it requires good weather and light winds.  We had nice weather today for our trip down the channel and motor-sailed with just the jib out.  The water was a beautiful royal blue and crystal clear.  Today was the first day we really felt like we were in the “Bahamas of the United States”.



We realize now we are not going to have enough time to go to the Bahamas.  When planning this trip, we read in the cruising guide a minimum of one month is necessary to go to the Bahamas because of dealing with the weather.  We had the month of April to make the trip, but more than half our time has passed while we have been waiting for the proper weather conditions to make the passage.  The extended forecast indicates there will be no break in the weather any time soon.  Hopefully, there will be another time when White Swan can venture to the Bahamas.

Since our reality check, we have decided to enjoy the Florida Keys the rest of April.  Our travel today brought us to the city harbor in Marathon on Vaca Key.  We are now in the Middle Keys.  We picked up a mooring ball in this busy harbor.  I always enjoy being hooked to a mooring ball, as we don’t have to worry about our anchor dragging during the night.  And just as important, we don’t have to worry about others’ anchors dragging in the night.   For those of you who don’t know what a mooring ball is, it’s a large ball-shaped float permanently anchored to the bottom.  It has a rope attached to it, that you pick up with your boat hook and then secure it over a cleat on your boat.  Most busy harbors have a mooring field because  1. More boats can stay in the harbor., and  2. The city or whomever owns the mooring field makes revenue from the rented mooring balls.   And as previously mentioned, for the boat owner it’s safer.

That evening, Sandy, Nancy, Gary and I rode in our dinghies to Burdine’s restaurant and had a lovely dinner.  We enjoyed having our meal on the waterfront deck until dusk came and the No-See-Ums attacked us.  We quickly paid our tabs and enjoyed the breezy ride in our dinghies back to our boats, leaving the No-See-Ums behind us in the still air.  From now on, we”ll probably try to be on our boat, with the screens in the hatches, before dusk arrives at this anchorage, to avoid another encounter with the No-See-Ums.

The next day, we loaded our marine bikes onto the dinghy and rode them to the nearby grocery store.  Afterward, we met Sandy and Nancy at the Stuffed Pig restaurant for lunch and then we went to the fresh seafood market.  With each couple parting ways, Gary and I chose to ride around and see what else we could find close to the marina.  We found a turtle hospital that gives educational tours.  Remember the saying, “If you want to revisit a place, don’t see everything there is to see.”  We want to come back to the Florida Keys again, and we’ll hopefully tour the turtle hospital at another time.

By the time we got back to our boat, Ed, Cheryl and Molly had made it to Marathon to reunite with us.  The three sister ships were on mooring balls all in a row.  It’s always impressive to see a group of the same model of boat in a harbor.  We are often asked if we are traveling together.  A few times, there have been one or two other Gemini catamarans in the same harbor along with the three of ours.  Usually, we meet the owners before leaving port.

Lignumvitae Key Botanical State Park 4-18-10

Ed and Cheryl decided to stay in Community Harbor another night, but Nancy, Sandy, Gary and I wanted to go to Lignumvitae Key Botanical State Park, so we ventured further south down the Keys today.

While going through a narrow channel called Steamboat Channel, White Swan ran hard aground.  Lily Pad was sailing ahead of us, unaware of our dilemma, and after we realized we were going to be there a while getting off the shoal, we radioed our sister ship with our VHF radio.  They came back to help us, and Sandy informed us we hadn’t furled in our jib sail, which was keeping us pushed up on the shoal.  DUH-H-H.  In our hast to do everything else we needed to do, we forgot about the jib.  Sometimes, Gary and I need a third brain, because the two we have together doesn’t do all the work necessary in certain situations.  Long story short:  We finally got off the shoal by both of us getting in the water and pulling up the rudders on both sides of the boat and dragging the boat backwards into deep enough water for the rudders and the outboard motor to do the rest of the work.  Gary hopped into our dinghy and he and Sandy stayed in their respective dinghy’s, motoring beside White Swan, in case they needed to assist her, until she was safely in deeper water.  (WARNING TO FIRST TIME BOATERS IN FLORIDA:  Later, we found out there could have been a fine for going aground with our boat in Florida because of “damage to reefs and seagrass beds“.  We are familiar with going aground in the Chesapeake Bay, which is commonplace there, so it never crossed our minds that it could be so detrimental in Florida to the point of a fine being issued for such an occurrence.  The rule of thumb regarding going aground in the Chesapeake Bay is, “If you’ve never gone aground, you’ve never really sailed the Bay. “  In Florida, the rule is to watch the color of the water and the saying goes, “Brown, brown, run aground. White, white, you just might. Green, green, nice and clean. Blue, blue, cruise on through.”  (Quoted from the Florida Keys Safe Boating Tips through the Florida Advisory Council On Environmental Education.)  The difference between the two quips is, in the Chesapeake Bay the bottom is mud for the most part.  In Florida, the bottom is coral or sand, and for both, guarded care is necessary to sustain the precious corals and seagrasses in the sand.

Since our encounter with the shoal in Steamboat Channel delayed our trip, we didn’t know if we could make it in time to get a tour of Lignumvitae Park.  But, we motored as fast as we could to get there just in time for the last tour of the day.  A private tour for just the four of us, at that.

Lignumvitae Key Botanical State Park:

(By the way, for those of you have never traveled the islands of the Florida Keys, the word “key” means a reef or a low island.  In the British Virgin Islands, where we have chartered a sailboat many times, the spelling for “key” is “cay”. “Cay” is pronounced the same, and means the same as “key”; it’s just spelled differently.)

Lignumvitae Key is an island composed of fossilized coral rock.  Throughout time, soil built up on the rocks, enabling seeds to take root and start growing trees and flowers.  The seeds came from other tropical islands, carried by the wind, or by the droppings of birds, or by washing ashore from the sea.  Nonetheless, the seeds sprouted and the key became the lush tropical hammock that it is today.  (In this text, a “hammock” is the elevated land, above the level of the marshy part of the island.  The word hammock is used in this context a lot in Florida.  In fact, our new home is in a subdivision named Hammock Lakes.)

The Matheson House on Lignumvitae Key

Lignumvitae Key can be reached only by boat.  There are only two houses on the island.  One is where the ranger who cares for the island lives, and the other is the original house built in 1919, the Matheson House.  This house was built for the caretakers of the island, not for the owner’s use.  The Matheson’s chose to stay aboard their yacht when they visited their island. The house remains pretty much the same as it did back in 1919 and is in impeccable condition.  Most of the furnishing are of the original era in which it was built.  There are lots of pictures of days gone by throughout the house.  Outside, is the original windmill that supplied power to the house, minus it’s top.  Now, a family of ospreys has their residence on the pent house of the old windmill.  An adult and two nearly grown offspring were letting their presence be known to us, with their distinct osprey cries, as we ventured outside for our walking tour of the hammock.  When the osprey mother senses her young are in danger, she always takes flight from the nest, to divert the attention from her fledglings.  When she took flight as I approached their domain to take a picture, I was not surprised by her reaction; as Gary and I have seen the osprey mothers do this many times as we have passed their nests atop the waterway markers in the Chesapeake Bay.  I say “mother” loosely, as I don’t really know if it is the mother parent or the father parent displaying this protective strategy for their young.

The cistern that supplied water to the Matheson House was seen but not available to tour.  Most of the original caretakers’ needs were met by the land and sea.  The focus on caring for the island today, is to maintain it as true to it’s original state as possible.  It’s care is entrusted to the Florida rangers.  There is only one other house on the island and that is where one of the Florida rangers stays.  Electricity for the island comes from a generator and water and all other supplies are brought to the island by boat.

As the ranger spoke about the infestation of mosquitoes on the island, in 1919 and present day, I wondered how the original caretakers took care of the need to protect themselves from such a nuisance.  There was no DEET back then. Maybe they covered themselves with mosquito netting.  None of us asked the question, so I have no truthful answer.

Lignumvitae Tree

As we went down the steps of the fossilized coral rock structured house, we were promptly greeted by a lignumvitae tree.  Now you know why this particular island was so named.  The lignumvitae that stands proudly at the corner of the house adjacent to the stairs, is a small tree in comparison to many others on the hammock.  This particular tree is very slow growing.  It had little white flowers on it and delicate leaves.  The most unusual trait of this little tree is in it’s wood.  The wood from this tree is almost as hard as steel.  In days past, the wood was used as bearing material for propeller shafts in PT boats.  Nowadays, the rarity of lignumvitae wood prohibits it’s use for commercial purposes.  As we toured the hammock, we saw other lignumvitae trees, one estimated at being 150 years old, yet not considerably larger than the much younger one that graces the corner of the house.

Another interesting tree, introduced to us on our walking tour, was the gumbo-limbo tree.  The bark of this tree is it’s fascinating feature, as it resembles layers of skin that easily sloughs off the trunk of the tree.  It’s commonly called the “tourist tree”, because “the tourists in Florida always get sunburned and then their skin sloughs off“.

After our grand tour of Lignumvitae Key, we took our dinghies back to our boats where Sandy, Nancy and Gary swam for a while.  I chose not to swim because while we were on shore, Nancy asked me if I saw the huge Portuguese man-of-wars in the water as we came in to the key‘s harbor.  Portuguese Man-of-Wars are sea creatures that are like huge jelly fish with tentacles that can be 40 to 50 feet in length which sting the  heck out of you if you get near one.  We were told, never to get near one if it washes up on the beach, as the tentacles are still poisonous even if the Man-of-War is dead.   I want to experience an encounter with a Man-of-War about as much as I want to experience an encounter with a crocodile!!!

From Lignumvitae Key we motored to a nearby island, Fiesta Key, and anchored for the night near a campground and marina.  Before leaving this anchorage the next morning, we visited the marina for purchases of ice and the forever sought after ice cream…a boater’s coveted treat.

Working Our Way Down the Florida Keys


Our travel today brought us to Mile 1150 on the ICW.  We are anchored in Community Harbor, Key Largo.  The three sister ships are once again reunited.  Sandy and Nancy’s Lily Pad was already anchored in the small harbor when Lady Bug and White Swan arrived.  Only boats with very shallow drafts can anchor in the shallowness of Community Harbor.  “Draft” is the term used for the distance from the bottom of the boat to the water’s surface.  Gemini catamarans have a draft of 20 inches.  Pat and Tom Dennis’ monohull boat, Swan, has a draft of six feet.  Therefore, they would be unable to go into a lot of anchorages we have been in with White Swan.  On the other hand, they could have been across the Gulf Stream by now, because their heavier boat can handle stronger winds than ours . There are advantages and disadvantages to both types of boats.  The important thing is to know the capabilities of your boat and sail her accordingly, respecting both the boat and Mother Nature.

Ed and Cheryl invited all of us over to their boat to watch a movie tonight.  We always enjoy movie night, especially since there is no TV aboard White Swan.  It took me five years to convince the captain of this boat, we needed a barbeque grill, so the way I figure it, in four more years we’ll have a TV on White Swan.  As with all things we have to wait for, it will be appreciated that much more when it happens.

Pennekamp State Park on Key Largo


Our next anchorage was a little further south in Blackwater Sound, very near where the ICW makes a cut through Key Largo via Dusenbury Creek. Nancy and Sandy are anchored past the cut in Tarpon Basin. The Pennekamp State Park is on Key Largo in between our two anchorages. Since they could dinghy to shore and walk to the park and we could dinghy through another shallow cut close to where we were anchored and go to the park via water, we made plans to meet them.

Cheryl and Ed relaxed on Lady Bug while we took our dinghy through a narrow cut through the Key to get to where Sandy and Nancy were awaiting us at Pennekamp State Park. The water was choppy in Largo Sound and we got wet going through the sound to get to our destination. Not having a GPS on the dinghy, and navigating by Sandy’s verbal directions given to us from his perspective from land, which is totally different from what is seen by sea, made it challenging to find them. After crossing Largo Sound , we made our way through a maze of mangroves and finally saw them waving to us from shore. Finding them was a combination of luck and a little navigational common sense.

We had a great time walking around Pennekamp State Park and then we walked approximately one mile to a restaurant Sandy and Nancy had found earlier in the day. After lunch, we parted ways at the park entrance and Gary and I went into the park where our dinghy was moored, while they continued walking another half mile or so to get to their dinghy which was tied up on the shore close to where Lily Pad was anchored.

When we went to the park, the wind was behind us and at times we rode the waves, giving us a smooth ride until our bow would lose the crest of the wave and dip down into the trough, which then allowed the water to come pouring over the bow into the dinghy. We knew the wind would be right on our bow going back to White Swan, and if it had stayed as strong as it was during our trip over, we would have had a very rough crossing for our return. Anticipating, a choppy, wet ride back to our boat, I’d worn a swimsuit underneath my clothes, so I took my outer garments off before slipping on a life jacket. If our ride back had been more bouncy than the ride to the park, I thought it would present a very real possibility of bouncing me off the bow of the dinghy and I wanted to be prepared for such an incident. Turns out, the wind calmed down, delivering an uneventful ride back to our boat. “Uneventful” is good…We don’t always need excitement in our lives.


Great Egret at Key Largo

Brown Pelican at Key Largo

On the ride through the cut, we saw lots of brown pelicans and great egrets.  This is the first area we have seen the tall white great egrets.  We’ve only seen the smaller snowy egrets thus far down the ICW.  The main differences between the two are, the great egrets are approximately 15 inches taller than the snowy egrets, and their bills are yellow where the snowy egrets are black.  Both have black legs, but the snowy has yellow feet while the great’s remain black.

We picked up our ice chest and a big bad of trash from the boat and went to a nearby marina for ice, gasoline for the dingy, and trash disposal. It’s a good thing White Swan didn’t need fuel, as the marina did not offer diesel. We noted two restaurants were near the marina, for future visits.

After dinner, Gary took a nap (a rarity) while I sat in the cockpit and read. The serenade of loud music from a tour boat, or the wake from all the power boats, didn’t seem to disturb Gary, and the activity provided entertained for me…beats staring at mangroves for two days.



Our travel today brought us to Mile 1150 on the ICW. We are anchored in Community Harbor, Key Largo. The three sister ships are once again reunited. Sandy and Nancy’s Lily Pad was already anchored in the small harbor when Lady Bug and White Swan arrived. Only boats with very shallow drafts can anchor in the shallowness of Community Harbor. “Draft” is the distance from the bottom of the boat to the water’s surface. Gemini catamarans have a draft of 20 inches. Pat and Tom Dennis’ boat, Swan, has a draft of six feet. Therefore, they would not be able to go into a lot of anchorages we have been in with White Swan. On the other hand, they could have been across the Gulf Stream by now, because their heavier boat can handle the stronger winds. There are advantages and disadvantages to both types of boats. The important thing is to know the capabilities of your boat and sail her accordingly, respecting both the boat and Mother Nature.

Ed and Cheryl invited all of us over to their boat to watch a movie tonight. We always enjoy movie night, especially since there is no TV aboard White Swan. It took me five years to convince the captain of this boat, we needed a barbeque grill, so the way I figure it, in four more years we’ll have a TV on White Swan. As with all things we have to wait for, it will be appreciated that much more when it happens.

Key Largo and the Queen


This morning we left Linderman Creek, leaving behind it’s eerie maze of mangroves and “whatever” lurked beneath the water’s surface there.

We motored south to a small harbor in Barnes Sound, off northern Key Largo, named Thursday Cove. Sandy and Nancy chose to travel a little further south to Tarpon Basin.

Thursday Cove was much more open and we felt less claustrophobic there than we did at Linderman Creek.  Since the cove is a natural reserve, it offered no residences, marinas or any other businesses; just lots of mangroves, only not in such a confined space as our previous anchorage.

Cheryl and Ed are always trying to find a place to take Molly to shore, and on there way back from one of their excursions, they stopped by our boat to inform us of a chair floating in the water near the shore, as they thought we might like to retrieve it to use in our cockpit, since I teased her about being rich enough to have a chair in her cockpit.  She has pretty, homey stuff all over Lady Bug, of which I’m jealous, so I tease her about being a rich b____, having all the pretty stuff that White Swan doesn’t, because there’s “no room”.  Anyway, Gary and I checked out the chair during our dinghy ride.  I wanted to retrieve it from the tangle of mangrove roots that had captured it.  My intentions were to set it up in the dinghy so I could sit on it and have Gary parade me by Lady Bug while I gave the Queen’s wave to my spectators, Ed and Cheryl.  I thought it would be the most hilarious thing to do, but my captain has his limits as to how much he’s willing to participate in my shenanigans.