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.

Dusenbury Pond, Key Largo

February 25, 2013

While in the midst of the Tarpon Basin shuffle, hanging out when the weather was benign and moving to more protected waters when the wind went too far north for us to be comfortable there, we met a couple on a MacGregor 26. We shared small boat sailing tips and anchorages where shallow draft is a must. One such place they mentioned wasn't even named on our chart. We had looked at it several times but with no local knowledge we didn't feel comfortable winding through unknown masses of mangroves. Flirt assured us that the path into the pond was negotiable as long as you have shallow draft, no standing rigging, and nerves of steel. Doubting only our nerve, we decided to try it before the next cold front arrived. What we discovered was magical.

Entering the tributary

Headed north along the Intracoastal from Tarpon Basin, you enter Dusenbury Creek. At R42 there are passages leading off the creek in both directions. Turn into the one on starboard in order to find the pond. There is a shoal on the port side of the entrance, but it is so shallow that it nearly glows, so seeing it shouldn't be a problem. As soon as we entered this little tributary we questioned our sanity. Our main mast is only 30-some feet, but we have two masts, so we were continually trying to gauge how to slide around corners while keeping both masts out of the higher mangroves. Walkure is only 7' 11" wide, but we could not have gotten through with the dinghy side-tied. Instead, we kept her behind the boat, but on a very short painter so that she did not get caught on mangrove roots as we wound through the maze.

Flirt had told us that at the Y we were to turn to port. The Y is very difficult to see until you have nearly passed it, and Walküre's bow spent a little time in the mangroves before we got ourselves pointed in the right direction. (The second time through Dave put the outboard in reverse to swing the stern to starboard so we could get the bow to go to port quickly enough to avoid such a problem. But with his new steer stick, which I'll post about later, the tiller and the dinghy to keep track of, he looked like a one-armed paper hanger.) Once we swung into the port tributary the path opened up into a big enough spot for four boats or so to anchor comfortably. Lucky for us, we were usually the only ones there.

One of our manatee visitors

We went to the very end of what we call Dusenbury Pond and anchored in the water equivalent of a cul-de-sac. We had to put out multiple anchors (three by the time we were done) in order to keep us in one spot, since the area is very small and the winds shifted with the cold front.

Alone in Dusenbury Pond

We arrived early in the week and were pleased to find that our only companions were critters: dozens of manatees, a huge iguana in a tree, a heron who sat on the same branch every morning, a crocodile who thankfully seemed to be well-fed, and, unfortunately, no-see-ums. We have no-see-um screens so we were comfortable in the boat, but any outside chores had to be postponed until after 10 in the morning and completed before 4:00 unless we wanted to become a walking snack.

Remember to look up

And then came the weekend. Though the traffic wasn't horrible, we no longer had our little pond to ourselves. Jetskis, fishing boats, pontoon tour boats, FWC and even the Coast Guard came to visit. (More on the last two later.) But come Monday morning our private pond was returned to us once more. We went into Dusenbury Pond twice, and both times we were loath to leave. A small boat with shallow draft had once again provided us with experiences we would never have had otherwise. Thanks, Walküre.

MONDAY we'll share some specifics on our post-bucket head situation.

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