SimplySailingOnline.com shows by example how easily you can eliminate stress, become more independent, raise your children in a safer environment (while spending more time with them, instilling values not based on the mighty dollar) and avoid the traps of commercialism. Because we live and sail simply, we have been wandering for 11 years with no intention of stopping. This is not a trip for us; it is our life, and I hope to share our success with stories of laughter and tears, as well as how-to tips and DIY projects for preparing, sailing and making a boat a home, so that others can join us.
In November 2002 we dropped anchor off Islamorada in the Florida Bay, reaching our first geographic goal as cruisers and marking the beginning of our first work stop and the work-six-months-screw-off-for-six-months pattern that would dominate our lives for the next decade. All winter and most of the spring we hung out in Islamorada. It was one of my most successful work stops (I was bartending at Islamorada Fish Company) and a place that the boys thought of as home for many years afterward. At 14, Nick got his first real job (at Green Turtle) and little David befriended sport fishing captains and mates, some of whom are still good friends.
Our first Keys experience had been in December 1999. I wanted the kids to always remember "where they were when" for the turn of the millennium. We had not yet found Eurisko and we were not sure how long we would be landlocked, but we wanted to spend this occasion on the water, somewhere warm. We'd rented a villa with a small sailboat and spent much of that week sailing a Compac 19 around Florida Bay.
A few weeks ago, we returned to Islamorada. A strange sense of déjà vu struck me as we circled the anchorage, even though we were in a different boat and none of the kids were there to share in our "homecoming." Even with only 13 inches of draft, we anchored our nearly as far from shore as we had in Eurisko. The edges of the anchorage are mostly grass, making the already poor holding even worse.
When we were here last we hung from three anchors in the shallow sand that barely covers the coral bottom. One night we were awakened with a THUNK and a woman singing, "Hello. You're hitting us." Dave flew out the V berth hatch and I heard him say, "How could I be hitting you? You are tangled up in our anchors!" I came on deck just in time to hear the powerboat captain say, "Well, I couldnt have dragged. I've been here three days." To which Dave shouted, "I've been here five months and I've dragged all over this [email protected]#ing anchorage!" Confused captain: "Well then, where were you anchored?" Dave: "RIGHT THE [email protected]$ HERE! You were anchored way over there." (You have to remember, it was the middle of the night. He was not in his best neighborly mood.) We finally got them to agree that there was no way we dragged forward into the side of their boat, but it took an embarrassing long time to get that point across.
Finding a sandy patch to drop the anchor in, therefore, was more important to us than proximity to the dinghy dock. Previously, we had used Lorelei as a dinghy dock. The restaurant tolerated those of us anchored out using their dock and there was never any problem. The new owners of Lorelei, however, are not of the same character. Because of some other issues with them (environmental and political) we decided not to patronize their establishment. Instead, we used the boat ramp in the same basin. There were other dinghies there that we recognized from the anchorage and a noticeable lack of "NO" signs. There was even a dumpster. All of these signs led us to believe that we were allowed to dock there.
We walked the block out to US1 and saw that little had changed. North along US1 are a laundromat, Post Office, a hardware store, and several restaurants. South from the ramp is the library, a small grocery store called the Trading Post and much farther down, World Wide Sportsman, Islamorada Fish Company and Green Turtle. We stopped at the library where the boys used to fill our jerry jugs with water. There are now half a dozen "NO" signs along the beach. We didn't need water while we were there, so I'm not sure where you can get it. I would start by offering to pay one of the local marinas for water.
On our way back to the dinghy we stopped at the Trading Post. The selection was worse and the prices were higher than we had remembered. We bought a hand of bananas and walked home, shaking our heads. "I couldn't live here again," Dave said. No, neither could I. The old adage about not being able to go home apparently includes work stops. Islamorada is a good place to stop while transiting the Bay side of the ICW, though I wouldn't lay out a cold front there. It has great restaurants, many of them with live music and a rowdy full moon party. There are frequent busses that run to Key West and Miami, and everywhere in between. For passing through, it is convenient in many aspects, but we can never call it home again.
MONDAY we'll share another culinary delight that we thought we'd have to give up because we have no oven. You'll be amazed at what you can do in a skillet with a lid.
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