We Have Crossed our Wake!

Monday, April 2, 2018 Islamorada

Yesterday we said good-bye to friends and headed out of Marathon, headed south to go under the 7 mile bridge (following a deep channel) and headed north to Islamorada and the marina we left a year ago. It was a beautiful day for our last voyage (sigh!)

Now we are back to where we started the Great Loop. Loopers call this ‘crossing your wake’. So after about a year and over 6,000 miles our fabulous journey comes to an end.


A quick recap: We started from here, Islamorada in the Florida Keyes, on April 11th 2017, with not much experience but a lot of excitement and anticipation. We had some mishaps along the way but what a great adventure. Looking the the attached map here’s our path:

– We went all the way up the Atlantic ICW, Chesapeake and Delaware Bays to the NJICW, through NYC and the Hudson River, north through Lake Champlain to the St. Lawrence River and past Montreal

–  Up the Ottawa River to Ottawa, capital of Canada,

– Down the Canadian Rideau Canal system to Lake Ontario, then to Belleville and Trent Ontario,

– Up the Canadian  Trent-Severn canal system to Georgian Bay, Lake Huron and its North Channel.

– Down the beautiful east side of Lake Michigan viewing huge sand dunes along the way and then at the bottom,  west to just below Chicago

–  Through the canal that leads to the Illinois River and then to the Mississippi River

– After St. Louis we went up the Ohio River and then down the Cumberland River to the Kentucky Lakes and then the Tennessee-Tombigbee river and canal system to Mobile Alabama (where we left the boat while we headed home for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays)

– Across the beautiful Alabama gold coast and Florida panhandle, then crossed to the West Coast of Florida and  where we spent some time before arriving in Marathon in the Keyes

– And now a few more miles north to Islamorada where we began.

We enjoyed so many places big and small and experienced sites we never could have imagined. But of course, it’s the people we met and visited along the way that really made the trip special in so many ways.  And also the blog followers that once in while let us know they were there – thank-you all!

Here are some final photos as we leave Marathon, and arrive at our small but just right Treasure Harbor Marina in Islamorada.

Thanks for you support! It’s been an amazing year!

Postscript: Facts from the trip…

  • Wandering Star went through 138 locks!  102 were in Canada on their beautiful heritage canal systems.
  • We stayed and marinas and anchored out/moored about an equal number of days.
  • We began April 11 2017 and finished April 4 2018, almost a year of thinking about boating and the Great Loop. We went home (Thanksgiving and Christmas for example) or to Sarah’s a number of times so the actual time traveling was about 9 months.
  • We sold the boat for about what we paid for it (minus all the repairs !:)) within 2 months.
  • It was the best year ever!


Birthday and Snorkeling in Marathon

March 30, 31 in Marathon

We have been focusing on preparing the boat for sale, including cleaning rugs and cleaning and re-oiling the inside and outside teak. But on my birthday, the 30th and on the 31st we made time to enjoy the beaches and waters of the area.

In the afternoon of my birthday  we took the dingy down nearby Sister Creek to Sombrero Beach where we met our boat friends Jane and Brice. (We met them the Mobile AL marina and were happy to see them again here – they have a 40′ sailboat that takes them wherever they feel like heading 6 months of the year). They were impressed when I rigged up our big rainbow umbrella to a folding chair using a curtain rod and duct tape – until it fell down whenever the person in it stood up! Two other new friends joined, we chatted and I swam a bit, and later we  went out to dinner via our dinghies.

Saturday morning we left the boat early – 9:30 – to dingy to the marina and walk to the KeyWest transit bus stop to get to Captain Pips Snorkeling adventure  in Marathon. I had figured out the stop the previous night, but we missed it and it was the last stop in Marathon before the 7-mile bridge! Opps!  We got off at the other end of the bridge and figured out we could make it back on the next shuttle going up to Marathon in an hour – if they were on time (which didn’t seem to happen with these shuttles). So when Dirk suggested I knock on the window of a car leaving the park next to us, I did (!), and after the initial surprise they were nice enough to give us a ride back over the bridge to our destination. Never a dull moment around here!

The snorkeling trip was fun. We cruised in a large and fast catamaran about an hour out to Sombrero Reef, a well-known snorkeling spot. They provided the equipment and we saw many fish, coral, sea fans, etc. The water was stimulating but not too cold, and it was a large area so we didn’t run into each other except close to the boat (there were about 45 of us). The only downside was that the winds and waves were higher than expected and I had to cut my snorkeling short due to feeling a bit queasy.

After we returned to Captain Pip’s and rested a bit we set out on a 20 minute walk to the west end of Marathon to the Sunset Grill. On the way we walked to the start of the old railroad bridge that used to cross the 7 miles to the next key. There’s a park there now and I think people will be able to walk and fish on the old bridge once repairs are completed. That seems to be a common use of old bridges in Florida.

The Sunset Grill is a restaurant with a pool! We knew that and had planned on washing off the salt water while we relaxed and waited for the entertainment to begin. The band was headed up by Ty who ran the City Marina and just retired this week (we attended the retirement party!)  He and the band were great and we were able to enjoy them while we again ate out (2 nights in a row!) with friends Jane and Brice and another couple.

And then we all took a taxi back to the marina, we got in our dingy and collapsed once we were back on the boat!

Marathon FL – About being on the mooring ball

March 28 – April 2, Marathon FL

Anchoring out in the bay for a long period of time is an usual experience for us – and some boaters live aboard full time this way, and visitors to the area do it for months at a time.

First the battery power for the refrigerator was insufficient – so we needed to run the generator for a few hours morning and evening (which is a bit noisy and not our favorite thing to do). After a few more days we realized that we needed ice to help out and fortunately they have an ice machine at the marina. For $2  we could get enough ice  to fill a large (canvas) shopping bag. It brought me back to growing up and camping with my family in the Adirondacks!  That ice machine was very busy with so many boats in the harbor.

We have water tanks that hold 150 gallons and only ran out of water once the entire trip when we were held up due to flooding and engine trouble in the Rideau in Canada.  This time we knew we were running low and so we conserved water in new ways to avoid moving the boat to shore and filling up again. (We knew we’d get to a marina soon). So we washed dishes and hands in the melted ice water and put a bag over the faucet to remind ourselves not to use it. (We needed the remaining water for flushing!) It worked and we didn’t run out.

But the beauty of being on this protected bay is the cool breezes and friendly boaters continually going back and forth in their dinghies to get provisions, do laundry, take showers, etc.  The marina includes a large hall  with many tables and outlets so people can sit and read, work and charge up their laptops and phones and use the marina wi-fi. They also have loaner bikes that we were going to borrow to go to Home Depot but there was only one available. A boater heard us talking and offered to give us a ride while her husband labored on their taxes at the table next to us. We gratefully accepted  – and that’s boaters for you! After getting what we needed we saw another boater friend shopping and he gave a ride back. How about that!

Some additional harbor shots – the colorful one is on the outside deck with beautiful mural in the background. Note the busy dinghy docks – so many dinghies since there are 150+ boats in the bay..


Marathon, Florida – The Keyes

March 26, Monday Marathon Florida

What have I been doing? I’ve been here in Marathon for a few days and haven’t updated the blog! We arrived in the Boot Key harbor of Marathon on Friday afternoon after a 45 mile trip down from the Everglades from Little Shark River where we spent one night at anchor – beautiful.

Now we are staying in Boot Key Harbor harbor on a mooring ball along with about 150 other boats! We only have electricity when the generator is running and we plan to be here about a week so it will be our longest stop without the comforts of a marina slip. But the marina offers nice showers and bikes we can borrow – so that’s helpful.

We went to the marina office the morning after we arrived (Saturday) to register and find out about its services. Besides the showers and bikes (and a many bookshelves of books!) we learned of a shuttle that will take us all the way to Key West for $1.00! Since we were pretty much out of fresh food we took a cab to Publix and stocked up again, got a cab back to the marina, loaded up the dingy, and then traveled back to the boat, tied up, and lifted each bag to the sundeck and then carried them to the galley. Nothing to it! Well, a little more challenging than other times but doable. We hung out at the boat the rest of the day I think.

Yesterday, Sunday, we borrowed bikes for a short trip up the road to Home Depot. We want the boat to look great when we put it on the market in a few weeks (sigh!) so picked up some special cleaners, teak oil, etc. We were also looking forward to visiting with other loopers in Marathon and in the late afternoon walked a few blocks to Banana Bay Marina where a number of people who have done the Great Loop are staying. Our friends George and Pat are still there (we saw them a month or so ago when we drove down for a party they were hosting) and we met some others last night as well.

Today we used the local KeyWest shuttle to travel to CVS down in Big Pine Key – a lovely ride for only $1 each way. When we returned we worked on spiffing up the boat for a few hours and then used the dinghy and walked again to Banana Bay where it turns out a party was going on. What a life! Most of the people staying in this small marina are regulars; they spend 4-6 months on their boats here every year and have become really good friends. It was nice to be included in their fun and yummy buffet.



Everglade City – Small Town, Safe Harbor

March 21, 2018 Tuesday in Everglade City

We are docked at the Everglades Isle Marina and RV Retreat for 2 addition days due to warnings of windy weather. We arrived yesterday to lovely weather and I was wondering if we made a mistake with the reservation (verses anchoring out), but by 8pm we were very glad we were here. The wind had been picking up and by about 8:30 it was pretty strong and we started hearing thunder and seeing lightening in the distance. I went up to the sundeck and started watching the lightening and it turned into an amazing light show for about a half hour! I’ve never seen anything like it. There was one section of the sky to the northwest  where the clouds would suddenly glow brightly, and another to the north where the on/off clouds also had streaks of lightening going in all directions, up, sideways, and sometimes almost like a flow of lightening. Dirk and I watched amazed. Eventually I came in when the thunder got louder and I felt a drop and soon it was all happening here – a noisy downpour with loud lightening and strong winds. We were glad we weren’t anchored out for that!

Here are some photos I found online that show something of what we saw last night.

Today is a slow day – doing some errands and may go to a local restaurant and stop at the small grocery. The big activities around here are eating, noisy airboat rides and there’s also an operation that offers kayaking and canoeing away from town. Not sure we are up to that in today’s winds. But we have books and the internet so we are fine.

Everglades Park

March 18 & 19, Sunday and Monday

We left Naples Sunday morning  with much turbulence – not the weather – the other boats! Strangely enough, to us anyway, there were no speeding restrictions on the river/inlet running up to Naples so we were tossed this way and that again. Bookcase on the floor etc. But once we were on the Gulf it was smooth cruising. How’s that for a switch?


An inside passage exists between the Naples inlet and Marco island, but with the weather so perfect we decided not to take any chances meeting up with shallow shoals. We had thought of stopping at popular Marco Island, but from the Gulf we could only see tons of high rise condos so passed it by.

Using our paper and online guides we found a lovely anchorage for Sunday night (called Panther Key), settled in and checked weather and winds for the rest of the week. Since strong winds are predicted for Tuesday through Thursday we arranged for a marina in Everglade City starting Tuesday evening.

Monday we traveled to a another anchorage (Russell Key) closer to Everglade City –  again a great place to see the Milky Way  after dark. I’ll be missing these great anchorages and views soon.

We’ve arrived at our slip in Everglade City at the Everglade Isle Marina and RV Resort. It’s a very  special RV Park with large paved and landscaped spots for each individual RV (also high end) and a includes a pretty luxurious lodge. The floating docks and boat slips are excellent as well. Maybe a little over our price range but there isn’t much choice around here. 🙂  The only (big) downside is the almost constant airboat noises as they  run back and forth up and down the channel near us. They are very loud – kind of like staying next to a small airport! But when I went inside the boat to whine about it to Dirk he was sleeping! So I guess they aren’t that bad!!!

Here are some sites as we came to the marina and one from the lighthouse actually in the marina lodge. The photo of the eagle on a post also had an airport in the background – and an airplane was landing as we cruised by.  The overhead view is from a tower built into the marina building.

Naples Florida

March 16 – 18am; Friday to Sunday morning

We left Rick and Eleanor’s rental in Cape Coral on Friday morning and Rick joined us for the journey to Naples. I took a few photos of their beautiful rental as we left.

We had determined it would be a nice and calm day on the Gulf, and it was. We traveled about 6 hours to the entrance to the river into Naples and then north to the city. What views we had of mansions!

We were amazed how Naples rivals Miami mansions one after another. We learned more about this later when we looked at real estate listings. Very high end and high priced. But fortunately there was a place for us at the City Marina where we docked around 3:30.  It was great traveling with Rick;  Dirk had him at the helm avoiding crab pots for a while. Rick headed home via Uber, we finished checking in and made plans to my meet cousin Donna who winters in Naples. I took a walk to the Tin Roof mall and saw more lovely homes and condos on the way.

We had a great time catching up with Donna at The Docks restaurant next to our marina. On Saturday she took me to the Naples farmers market where I bought more beautiful  veggies and was tempted by a lot of sweet goodies as well. We picked up Dirk back at the marina and headed to her place so we could go to the beach.

Ok- this is when we learn about condos and high rise condo communities and the beach access in Naples. There were maybe 8 very tall condo buildings  and many 2 story condo neighborhoods in this area that is north of downtown Naples, and they all belong to a large community association that includes various services including access to the beach and beach restaurants. Since the beach isn’t that close to most buildings, people can drive, walk or bike to shuttle areas and get on a free shuttle to the beach that runs over long boardwalks! Once we arrived at the beach, cabana boys set up chairs and umbrellas for you (and are tipped).  There was also a casual but very nice restaurant up from the beach for people with the beach passes. This kind of community and service was interesting and all new to me.  And we want to once again thank Donna for a fabulous day in Naples.

Later in the afternoon we did a load of laundry at the marina and then ate on board. This morning we walked about 6 blocks to a great breakfast place (Janes) since we hadn’t had breakfast out for a while. Nice- they even had a vegan option!