February 24, 25, 26 (Saturday, Sunday, Monday from St. Petersburg to Marathon in the Keys and back.
Our friends from Brick, NJ who helped us when we grounded our boat a few times in New Jersey and also helped me see a doctor when I was pretty sick there, were having a party in Marathon, FL (a 6 hours drive away) on Sunday and we didn’t want to miss it since it would likely be the last large gathering of fellow loopers we’d be able to attend. On Saturday we wandered around two nearby parks in St. Petersburg and enjoyed an amazing display of art for sale ( maybe 50 booths) and then a very huge farmers market with many temptations. Later we rented a car, moved our boat to a mooring ball vs the slip to save money ($15 vs $80 /night) and then drove to Homestead FL at the top of the Keys for the night as we headed toward the Sunday party in Marathon.
Sunday morning we stopped at our boat’s home port in Islamorada and visited with the owner, Pam Anderson, telling that we hoped she’d have a place for us in April, and then continued south. We almost made to the party spot, Banana Bay Marina, when we saw the Air Museum that had been closed last time we tried to visit. In we went, only to find out that a number of the antique planes blew away or were destroyed in hurricane Irma last year. Very sad. But Dirk talked with the manager, looked at what was there and enjoyed the stop.
We reached the marina where Pat and George Hospedar, authors of two Great Loop books, greeted everyone, gave us name tags (very useful!) and we immediately spotted our friends Jan and Ron.
We chatted with friends we had met along the way, Loopers that finished their trips years ago and a couple that was just started to plan their journey. Pat H. had hired a wonderful band and even sang with them at one point (she was a music and choral teacher) and many people gathered for a sunset photo.
We stayed overnight in a lovely place – Coconut Bay Resort – which has gorgeous grounds and lovely cabins. It felt like we were in a botanical garden! In addition the owner makes delicious multi-flavor scones every morning for the guests. I’d love to spend more time there if I ever get the chance.
We traveled back to St Petersburg most of Monday. We returned our car, Ubered back to the marina and found our dingy still at the dingy dock (yea) and took it to the boat for a quiet night.