The water was calm and smooth as we made our way into the Faro Blanco Marina in Marathon, Florida.
The water was so clear you could see the bottom of the lake. At times we could see
the crab pot
cages on the
bottom as we passed along side of them!
We were happy to arrive at the marina before the weather changed later in the day!
At about 5:00 pm, the same day we arrived, the wind picked up and it blew hard
and lasted for several days.
The weather had turned and the following days felt
We experienced temperatures of 50 degrees along with
About the time we thought it was cold here we heard how
the rest of the states
were really in the deep freeze!
We are happy that Seaquest was tied in our slip at the marina and not in the open seas.
In many ways, the Florida Keys resemble the islands of the Bahamas. However, a main highway and 42 bridges
(a total of 18.94 miles of bridges) tie them together. The longest bridge is the Seven Mile Bridge. Our marina
is two miles east of the beginning of the Seven Mile Bridge heading to Key West. The highway, U.S. 1 South, known
as the Overseas Highway, runs from the tip of the Florida peninsula to Key West, the nation's southernmost city.
Because there are so many islands within the
Florida Keys they are often divided into several different groups.
These groups are the Upper Keys, Middle Keys, Lower Keys and the Outlying Islands. Marathon is in Vaca Key,
one of the Middle Keys. The city of Key West is located in the Lower Keys. The Upper Keys are those located the
farthest north and closest to Florida's mainland. The Outer Keys consist of islands that are accessible only by boat.
The most populated city in the Florida Keys is Key West and many other areas within the islands are sparsely
populated. Other interesting facts about the Florida Keys, is that the first inhabitants were the Native American
tribes Calusa and Tequesta. Juan Ponce de Leon was later one of the first Europeans to find and explore the islands.
Henry Flagler was an American industrialist and founder of Standard Oil, first based in Ohio. He
was also a
key figure in the development of the Atlantic coast of Florida and founder of what
became the Florida East
Coast Railway. He is known as the father of St. Augustine, Miami and
Palm Beach, Florida. Henry Flagler
was a financial wizard and is credited for "creating" Florida. It is
reported that Henry jokingly stated "he
would have been a wealthy man if it hadn't been for Florida."
Cheryl and Cal and also Mike, Tammi and Patrick, rented a car so we all went to Key West for the day.
Along the way there was still lots of the remnants of Hurricane Irma, pilled up high
along side of the road.
Kinda like the Worthington spring pick-up, once the area has been picked up by the
local authorities the
inhabitants have to deal with the rest of the garbage on their own.
Hence the sign below.
We enjoyed our day in Key West.
You don't have to work hard to spot Key West chickens and roosters! You hear them crowing and see them
strutting everywhere! The colorful roosters and the mother hens followed by lines of tiny chicks weave in
and out of traffic and through
outdoor cafes all over town. Key West residents call them "gypsy chickens".
How did these chickens and roosters become such
a colorful part of Key West history? Today's gypsy chickens
are the descendants of chickens brought to the island by
settlers for meat, eggs and cockfighting entertainment.
Cuban immigrants who came to Key West in the late 19th century
to work in the cigar industry and in the
1950's to escape the Cuban Revolution brought their own breed of Cubalaya
chickens with them. As poultry
and eggs became readily available in the markets and cockfighting became illegal, the
were released by their owners or escaped from their enclosures to roam the streets freely.
When people stopped the laborious process of turning live chickens into Sunday dinner many decades ago, some
backyard chickens also gained their freedom. It is not uncommon to see and hear roosters crowing in the Keys! While
locals may find them to be an annoyance, for tourists, they are part of Key West's charm. Residents of Key
just take steps to protect themselves from Hurricane Irma they watched out for the town's gypsy
chickens as well. Key West has a lot of off-beat charms, but one of the favorites has always been the chickens.
One sign of how many
chickens roam Key West is that the Key West Wildlife Center relocates close to 1,500
and they're still everywhere.
The center provides humane chicken traps for property owners to use
to trap nuisance
chickens. Chickens brought to the center
are provided food, shelter and necessary medical
attention. The center then finds homes for the birds on the mainland with
people who agree to keep them
as pets and not make them dinner.
We thought that all the chickens and roosters roaming
Key West really gives the island a tropical feel,
making it seem more Caribbean than American.
On the most southern point of Key West is the monument below, stating that
Cuba is only 90 miles away!
While Cheryl and Cal still had the rental car we drove to the Blue Hole Nature
area on Big Pine Key.
Big Pine Key is one of the Keys between Vaca Key,
where Marathon is, and Key West.
(can you spot the Alligator resting on the rock?)
Key deer, alligators and fish gather at this watering hole, formerly a limestone quarry,
water from the
is layered over salt water. Salt water sometimes gets
introduced into the pond
by storm surge that rises higher
than the land elevation.
This is the sign at the entrance to the park.
If you didn't find the alligator....
this is the resident alligator in the earlier picture that was sunning himself on the rock!
The endangered Key deer is the smallest subspecies of the North American white-tailed deer. The
largest bucks grow to less than a yard high at the shoulders and weigh about 80 pounds. The does are
24 to 28 inches at the shoulders and weigh about 65 pounds. Poaching and habitat loss had reduced
the number of Key deer to only a few dozen animals by the 1950's , but
establishment of the Refuge
and subsequent listing of the deer as endangered in 1967 has allowed for
protection and a dramatic
recovery of the species. Post-Irma population estimates are in and the Key
deer population is
after the hurricane. Key deer can be found in most habitats in the Lower
We saw this Key deer along side of the road!
Cheryl and I laughed as we sat down next to this crab and sign that read "Crabs Gather Here"
Time flew by and first thing you know Cal and Cheryl "abandoned ship"
and drove to the Key West
airport to catch their flight home.
Sombrero Key Lighthouse is located three miles out into the Atlantic from Marathon. We hung a left out
of the marina, went under Seven Mile Bridge and entered open water. As we got closer and closer,
Sombrero Key lighthouse grew bigger and bigger. The lighthouse, constructed in
the 1850's is located
on a mostly
submerged reef and was an hour boat ride on Imagine This captained by our
and first mate Amy, also in our marina. The name Sombrero Key goes back to the Spanish,
charts show a small
island at the spot, but by the later 19th Century the island had eroded away, with
some parts of the
reef exposed at low tide. The lighthouse was put in service in 1858 and
is still in
The foundation is iron pilings with disks and the tower is a skeletal octagonal pyramid of
It is a 142-foot tall brown painted tower and is the tallest lighthouse in the Florida Keys.
It was a beautiful day when we went out to Sombrero Key on Chris and Amy's boat, along with Mike
and Tammi. We tied Imagine This up on a mooring buoys in approximately six to eight feet of water.
The water was crystal clear
and easy to see the bottom. (no anchors are allowed to prevent damage
to the reef).
Once we were secure to the mooring buoy we put on our snorkeling gear and jumped
into the water! It was like swimming in an aquarium! The reef was teeming with life, with lots of
coral and colorful fish, alone and in schools, big and small.
Sombrero Reef is part of the Florida
Reef System, one of the largest reef systems in the world, and is a popular snorkel destination!
A couple of days later, Bruce, along with three other guys, went out fishing
chartered boat. It has
twin 350 hp engines.
Pictured below is Bruce and fellow Looper, Derek. They caught about 40 Red Snapper and two King Mackerel.
That evening we enjoyed the King Mackerel as we prepared fish tacos.
One day several of us took a shuttle bus to the Seafood Festival in Key West. It only cost $1.00
each way for seniors (60+) to get from Marathon to Key West on the bus! (I barely qualified, lol )
We had a great time with fellow loopers! Mike and Tammi on Ned Pepper,
Kate and Eddy on Total Eclipse,
Chris and Amy on Imagine This.
Our dinghy had some rain water in it so Bruce tipped the end of the dinghy back to let the water
of the plug hole.
We had a surprise when a Manatee surfaced to drink the fresh water!
(see below the
Manatee drinking the drips of fresh water from the dingy)
Manatees are large, fully aquatic,
herbivorous marine mammals sometimes
known as gentle sea cows. If Florida's endangered species
held a beauty pageant,
wouldn't win for its looks but it would be a shoo-in for Miss
because they are charming creatures. They are known to be slow moving however
they can swim up to 25 miles per hour, in a burst, if they are spooked. They can
live into their 60's,
though many in the wild don't live to be that old. Wild Manatees
require regular access to fresh,
or perhaps brackish, water to meet water balance needs.
Brackish water is a combination of fresh
and salt water normally found in rivers upstream
from the ocean. Manatees are extremely protected in
all of Florida. Many of their
areas of habitation are no wake zones to try to prevent prop injury to the Manatee.
Below: the Manatee floated right over on his back and poked its nose slightly above
water in the
the dripping water. Note his front flippers.
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We plan to be in Marathon until approximately February 1st. At that time we may
coast and perhaps take a trip to the Bahamas. More adventures to come!
We will keep you informed.
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