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Clearwater, FL to Key Largo, Fl

Jan. 7, 2024 We finally left Clearwater Beach and headed south to Sarasota, Fl. We passed the sunshine skyway bridge across Tampa Bay, the site of the deadliest bridge collapse in the U.S. when a tanker hit the bridge in the fog in 1980. Some 35 died, mostly from driving off the broken bridge in the bad weather.

Marina Jack Marina was a very upscale marina, right in the heart of downtown Sarasota. Nancy explored downtown. There was a really nice (and expensive) art festival. Radar was a big hit with the crowd.

Jan. 8 Next we headed to Burnt Store, Fl near Punta Gorda because there was a Safe Harbor Marina there where we are members and bad weather was coming in.

We had to weave our way through a sailing regatta to enter the marina. While we were fueling, we heard a call for Coast guard for a missing man overboard, but a few minutes later a center console pulled up with a very cold and wet man.

Turns out he fell off one of the boats and they didn't notice. A boat nearby did but they lost sight of him and couldn’t find him for several minutes, prompting the call to Coast guard. That long arm point is crucial in man overboard situations. Remember, it might have been Florida but we were still wearing fleeces. Glad the story had a happy ending.

Darin and Beth from Piglet drove down to visit and we had a nice dinner. They were staying at a marina about an hour away for a several weeks stop. The wind from the storm was blowing the water into the marina. And our dock was close to going under. The marina shut down power to the docks so as not to accidently electrocute anyone. Fortunately our dock managed to stay about an half inch above the water and they turned back on the power a few hours later when the tide dropped.

Nancy explored Punta Gorda and bought some bathing suits, since Nancy had assumed she or Jason would have returned to Annapolis before now to retrieve summer clothes.

Jan. 10 The weather finally cleared so we headed south to Captiva Island, which is next door to Sanibel Island. Both of which got hit extremely hard by Ian. We had heard that the resort got their marina open and decided we deserved a couple resort days after the stresses of the holidays.

There are abandoned boats hard aground all along the ICW and Florida Coast. The number and their sizes is pretty mind blowing. The resort at Captiva had been very hard hit and half of it was an active construction site.

They still didn't have a restaurant open only a food truck, but the beach and pool were spectacular. The resort was meant to hold thousands of people, but only a couple hundred were there (at least what we could tell looking at the lights of people's units at night).

It even warmed up enough that we no longer needed to wear jeans and we got to lounge by the pool (although the construction was very noisy). The food truck was excellent.

Jan. 11 Next we headed to Naples, which required a bit of a weather window since you have to go

along the outside of the barrier islands, but we had an uneventful trip.

Lots of birds in Florida! Left us an Anhinga, also known as snakebird, a cousin of the cormorant but with a long snake like neck.

The houses at the entrance to Naples were unbelievable, 20-40 million dollar estates one after another. Our marina ended up being directly under the path of Naples airport, so a constant stream of private jets were landing and taking off. The reviews oddly did not mention this.

We met up with Michelle and her husband Brooks for lunch in Naples. Michelle is Nancy's investment advisor. Her good picks is what helped fund this adventure.

We also did one good deed. A ranger tug that was waiting to get hauled out got caught beneath the pier and there was nobody around. We called our dock master who was able to

go over and find some people to help free the boat before it got permanently damaged.

We needed a good weather window to cross to the Florida Keys and looking at the forecast, we decided to go to Marco Island and rent a car to see the Everglades instead of going by boat to Everglade City.

Jan. 16 We met up with relatives of Jason (John and Donna Davidson). They drove a four hour round trip to have lunch with us! John paddle boarded through the Ockochobee and around the coast of Florida a few years prior, which is another level of planning entirely.

We rented a car and headed to Corey Billie's Everglades tours, where they take you on an airboat to see the alligators and explore the mangroves. The airboats are really fast and it was really fun!

We both got the chance to pick up baby alligators (which made Jason a lot happier than Nancy).

Jan 18. We chose our day to cross to Marathon well and had a smooth ride. We stopped and fueled up at the Safe Harbor (they were all full) and spent the night at Key Colony Beach Marina. Which was tucked away and reasonably priced, but 40% of our boat stuck out of the slip and there was no finger piers, so you had to clamber over the dinghy and up the high sea wall to get on and off. Nancy couldn't get Radar on and off (or herself) without Jason's help.

We had made reservations at Key West, but it was supposed to blow hard for up to 5 days, which would have trapped us in Key West, which we couldn’t afford if we were going to be on time to meet Jen and Nico in Nassau.

We scrambled to find a marina on the lee side of the Keys that could take us for 4-5 days with no luck. Finally, Nancy called over to the most expensive marina in Marathon, Blanco Faro, and they had a slip.

We couldn’t get a full refund for Key West and ended up paying for a night there as well as at Marathon. To make matters worse, the sea wall at Blanco Faro was damaged and no longer protected the half of the Marina where we were docked at high tide. It stayed cold and windy for most of our stay there, so we didn't use their really cool floating lounge.

Jan. 19 On our way over, we weirdly ran into fog, so thick we had to do a security call to go under the bridge, visibility was so poor. We found out later they hadn’t had fog in over four years…just our luck.

It did clear up and we took the e-scooters on the old 7 mile bridge over to Pigeon Key, the original base of operations for building the bridge. A fun little island tour. We have put 100 miles on our e-scooters so far!

So Nancy had looked for marinas on the west side of the islands, since the winds were going to be coming from the Northeast, not understanding how much the end of the Keys bend westward. So we were actually on the North shore, which was not very protected. Our slip was very noisy and rocky. Every day, when we reached the point of wanting to turn on the stabilizer (which is too noisy for Nancy to sleep to), the tide would drop enough and the rocking would go back to merely irritating.

Nancy met up for dinner with her old boss from Chesapeake Bay Foundation. She Ubered an hour south and he ubered an hour north. He is an amazing environmental educator and he was going to take us Kayaking in Key west, which would have been an amazing experience.

We also had dinner with George and Tracy from Done Savin. The restaurant we met at was closed and we ate at a very good taco truck next door.

Nancy got an eye infection and went to a local eye doctor and got antibiotics and we were able to take Radar to the required vet visit for Radar to enter the Bahamas. Thankfully we were able to hire someone to do his pet entry paperwork for us.

A weather window to cross to the Bahamas opened up earlier than expected. The weather windows are rarer than we had understood. Not only do you need it to be a calm day but the wind also need to be coming from the south. It is dangerous to cross if northerly waves build up against the Gulf Stream current.

Jan 27 We stopped to visit Tom Carter at the famous Ocean Reef club in Key Largo. Tracy Bellinger, who was another member of my brother’s high school “rat pack” was also visiting. We went to a cocktail party at a friend of Tom and Jen’s and then went out to dinner.

We had not checked on the price of the slip. When we we fueled up, they didn’t know the price per ft for a slip. Tom told us the 100ft slip across the dock from us was for sale for $3.3 million! There were dozens of 150ft plus yachts in the marina. Tom warned us to brace ourselves for the bill. When we found out 4 days later, our jaws dropped. It was (by far) the most expensive slip we had rented. In fact it cost more than our honeymoon suite did per night!

West coast of Florida explored! We took off the next morning for the Bahamas.



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