We had to admit it: the time to leave Key West had arrived. We planned our exit strategy and began the trek up the island chain. On the road again.
Day 127, February 17, 2019
Yes, time to leave Key West. While we had enjoyed our stay, we were ready to be on the move again.
Executing the departure was tricky. We looked out a week and contemplated the weather patterns and stops along the way. Both proved to be complicated, especially since the Miami Boat Show was looming large and a lot of boats seemed to have flooded into the keys to escape Miami. Accommodations were in short supply.
Eventually we found some travel windows that offered good conditions for running on the ocean side, up Hawk Channel to Stock Island for a brief stop and fuel, then on to Marathon for two nights, and ultimately inside the chain up Florida Bay to Key Largo. We would figure out how to negotiate our way through Miami once we got closer.
As many times as we have tackled the routine of Getting Under Way, we are always a bit rusty after a lengthy stay in port. It takes special focus to get back into the swing of it all, and we had a blip or two leaving Key West.
We did our morning thing one last time: a walk with the dogs and a visit to the Fisherman’s Cafe for one more cubano. We had a warm goodbye with America at the little kiosk outside The Galleon, and with Cyndi, who had taken such good care of us and Esmeralde during our visit. Then, quietly and without fanfare, we slipped our lines and headed out.
It was a beautiful day, but it was blustery. As we left the slip we got a surprise new engine alarm. Long-story-short, it appeared to be a loose connection on a harness in the engine room. Something to troubleshoot as we continue the trip. We did an easy cruise north through the mooring field at Flemming Key, just checking everything out and making sure all systems were go.
With everything seeming to be in order, we flipped around and headed south, watched a large 100+ foot sailing yacht almost T-bone a passenger dive boat — loud horns, arms waving and passengers yelling — , then slipped past the cruise ships moored at Mallory Square and found ourselves in a washing machine of gusty breeze, current-against-wind, with salt spray everywhere. Tt was about then that Bruce went below for a quick check and found the forward hatch cracked open in the “rain” position, which is quite safe for rain but not so much for the heavy spray coming over the bow. Yes, we were rusty, and had a wet bedcover to show for it.
Stock Island, Stock Island Marina Village
It was a short, beautiful ride, only an hour, to Stock Island. Just long enough for us to get settled down and back in some sort of rhythm for travel. Our plan was to stop in Stock Island to get fuel, spend the night, recharge from the stress of getting under way again, then head out in the morning for Marathon.
The staff at Stock Island Marina Village is excellent: efficient and helpful. It was just about noon that we pulled alongside at the fuel dock to fill the tanks, then move to our slip for the night. We were on the south side of the main pier at the marina, where they put the very large yachts. The problem with this location is that you do get some wave action from the channel. We rolled noticeably the entire time we were there. It wasn’t bad, really, but noticeable.
Fortunately, our pit-stop enabled us to wash our damp bed cover. It was too hot to do too much else, especially with the pups. We walked them around the facility, staying in the shade as much as possible. The on-site Perry Hotel is a resort facility, with an attractive pool, two restaurants and two outside bars. It seems quite nice, although we have heard mixed reviews. They are planning some major infrastructure improvements over the winter (including a new fitness center!), so we will look forward to returning next season to check it out. We and wandered the docks to see what boats were in, something we always enjoy doing wherever we are.
The bar at Stock Island Marina Village is hospitable, and even with the heat there was a nice breeze filtering through and we were quite comfortable when we stopped in for a beer. Lots of folks descend for happy hour at the bar because there are some cheap food specials, but we wanted something different.
As the evening cooled down, we took the pups back to the boat, then wandered off for a walk. Stock Island in general is not exactly great for sightseeing. There are some obvious improvements over the last few years, but there is still a long way to go before it feels safe and enjoyable. Just up the road from the marina there is an impressive new community sports complex. Otherwise, it is industrial. Dusty, dirty, and loaded with single-wide mobile homes.
We headed to Boyd’s Campground where we have stayed several times before with our Airstream. We enjoy walking the campground loop and inspecting the rigs and campers. From Boyds, we cut back past West Marine and went to Roostica, one of our favorite eateries in the greater Key West area, then a walk back to the boat as the full moon rose in the east. Lovely evening.
Our short visit to Stock Island was melancholy. It marked the end of our stay in Key West, the half-way point of our trip, and the end of the very emotional, traumatic and sad period of losing my Dad and beginning my new life without him. It was a time to pause, to contemplate all that had taken place in the last few weeks for my family, and the last few months for this trip. And it became a stepping off point for looking forward at the rest of our trip, heading north, heading towards home.
And new adventure.
The Florida Keys
Key West (The Galleon) to Stock Island (Stock Island Marina)
February 19, 2019
8 miles, 1 hour, 7.2 knots average speed
Gorgeous day, hot, humid, brisk SE 15 – 20, sunny, beautiful.
Total trip miles: 1848