Monday, April 28, 2014

Kids Visit Us At Boca Chica

Tip:  If any of you are Military… Call Barb at Boca Chica NAS Marina and get yourself on the list for a slip NOW!  

This post is about the fun we had with our youngest daughter and about meeting her boyfriend Scott for the first time, but I have to say up front that we were VERY fortunate that because of his Military status, we were allowed to bring our boat to Boca Chica Key to stay at the Navy Base marina.  This facility is for the use of Military men and women, their family and friends and we were lucky indeed to have the opportunity.  It is a laid back place full of friendly people and we would have loved to have stayed forever… Thanks for the hospitality NAS Boca Chica!

Brittney & Scott
The uncertainty of our plans to get to the Bahamas has us juggling kids.  Will we get to the Bahamas this season, or wouldn’t we?…  Brittney was hoping to get to visit us in the Bahamas but time just ran out, and if we were going to get to see our youngest daughter and meet her boyfriend Scott, it would pretty much have to be now.  Their schedules were clear for a short time and we found ourselves in the Lovely Florida Keys… Who wouldn’t want to take a quick trip down here?!!!  

I was beyond excited as the hours before our guest’s arrival ticked away…  Not only because we would get to see Brittney (whom we haven’t seen since November) and meet Scott, but because we would be moving again!  We’ve been in Marathon for a month and are starting to feel the growth of roots, and not just on our boat bottoms!  The kids arrived in the night and we collected them from the dinghy dock in a covert night expedition…  It was late and everyone was tired, but in the morning… the fun began.

We made a mad dash over to NAS Boca Chica first thing after breakfast to obtain temporary ID allowing us access to the Military facility.  Without it, we would not have been able to be separated from Scot during our stay… and the kids had some independent plans of their own.  

As usual, everything takes longer on a boat, so it was about noon before got our act together and set sail.  Ahhh it was a glorious light wind day and the water was just stunning.  Although the winds were too light to reach our destination before dark under sail alone, we were able to make good time motorsailing.  (Some day the winds will be blowing from a favorable direction and we won’t know what to do!!!)  

Learning to Sail!
Bruce and I always enjoy introducing others to their first sailing experience and while this was not Scott’s first time sailing (he has recently learned some tricks on a sunfish)… I think it was his first time on a big boat, and for sure his first pseudo-offshore experience.  He adapted quite nicely and was more than willing to help sail the boat… However, the conditions were more conducive to lounging on the deck than for any kind of sailing lessons, so the kids got a chance to relax and unwind from their travels while Bruce and I got us to our destination.  

Scoping out snorkel spots
We turned into the channel leading to the marina at about 5:30 pm.  The water was gorgeous and the channel was deep.  I motored us in between the shallow banks thinking what a great snorkel spot this would be…  Those fins are going to finally get out of the bag!  The Harbormaster had given us instructions for docking and we found our slip and docked easily.  It’s almost TOO easy with plenty of help from other boaters handling the lines!  We didn’t even need to go check in until Sunday as the office was closed by the time we arrived.  Did I mention that this place is laid back!???

Jetsam checked out her surroundings too...
We spent some time checking out our surroundings.  The showers and laundry are open and looked very nice.  There is a cute little beach and tiki huts with tables for picnicking.  We had just enough time to have dinner before the kids left to catch the bus back to Marathon to retrieve their car.  What a great day it has been and I’m so excited that Brittney is finally here.  She has a full weekend planned so Bruce and I are not in charge.  It’s kind of like a vacation for us too!

The following morning we slept in.  The kids had planned on taking off to Key West for Yoga at the Southernmost Point, but that didn’t happen.  So instead of spending our morning cleaning the boat and enjoying the lovely unlimited AC and water (we haven’t been plugged into a dock since February 1st, so this is heavenly!), we all piled into the car and drove to Key West.  Yes… Key West.  One. More. Time…  

Bruce and I didn’t really care what we did, we were just happy to spend time with Brittney and Scott and get to know him better.  He had chosen the breakfast place for us… La Creperie.  I have to say that I was skeptical about crepes… I usually need some protein for breakfast or I can’t make it through the day…  

But everything we ordered was exceptional and we enjoyed being squeezed into a tiny little table on the street watching Key West wake up.

All four of us were interested in touring the Key West Lighthouse and Museum.  Always a big fan of lighthouses, I had not had the pleasure of visiting this one on our last visit to Key West.  We picked up a little history about the place before entering the tower and I noticed a recurring theme with lighthouses… they seem to have similar histories in that many of them have been damaged by storms or the elements and have been either rebuilt or improved over the years.  They all have gone from manned lights with homes for the keepers and their families to being fully automated in more recent years.  What lonely lives the lighthouse keepers must have lived.

The grounds around this tower have strangely lifelike statues of people doing normal touristy things.  They are a little bit disconcerting and it’s almost as if you feel their presence even though you know they aren’t real.  We had a little fun with this lady before we began our climb…

I was the last one up the stairs.  This facility provided rubber gloves to wear going up.  Maybe all of the hands damage the railing somehow?  I’m thinking its to keep the railing from smelling up our hands!  But we all snapped on our globes and the kids and Bruce were way ahead by the time I started my slow climb. 

This isn’t a very tall lighthouse… so the climb itself wasn’t the problem.  My problem is that I can’t help think of how old these stairs are and how time must have made them rickety…  I have to push these thoughts out of my mind as I climb up and up.  I stop at every window and peer out to see how far up we are…  I take some comfort in the thickness of the walls, and this tower seems in a better state of repair than many we’ve visited, so I feel better about continuing to the top.  

As usual, the views are breathtaking as I hide out from the wind on the lee side.  There is water everywhere in the distance and even a cruise ship.  This tower has placards that tell what you’re looking at as you gaze off into the distance from a bird’s eye vantage point.  

I took the obligatory “looking down” picture… the camera is more brave than I am… I’ll look at it when I get back no the ground.

Once we had made the rounds, including a trip to the windy side and some photo ops… we headed back down the spiral stairway.  

Bruce precedes me to catch me if I fall (I never fall) and STILL I find myself having to chant my way down “I am one with the stairs, I can not fall”.  These stairs are nice and wide so you can’t actually SEE the distance to the floor, so it was better than usual…  

Once back on terra firma and out into the sunny courtyard, I spied a huge stand of Banyan trees.  I could not resist them and talked the kids into playing around a bit.  Brittney and I wove our way through the roots while Scott when right to the top. 

Ahhh to be young again.  Whatever!  I was never young enough to climb to the heights he did!  He’s worried about what his new nickname might possibly be and I’m thinking we’ve found one… MonkeyMan!

Bruce scoffed at us when he realized that for real we were going to climb that tree… until he saw how much fun we were having and joined us…  

It’s been quite a while since either of us have done this and I’ll admit that Bruce made it back down much more gracefully than I did!  Hey, it isn’t as easy as it looks!

But my way was still much more easy than Scott’s choice… He swung his way down like a monkey on a fireman’s pole, then pretended to pic fleas out of Brittney’s hair and eat them…  Yeah, I think he’s settling right in with the family!

Choosing the right coconut
We abandoned the trees and did a short tour of the museum where we watched an informative film.  Then we set off to find Duval street to see what’s going on over there!  Scott bought a fresh coconut to share with Brittney.  My taste for coconut water is not as well developed as theirs, so Bruce and I passed.  I guess we’ll have to work on that when we get to the islands…

Seriously GOOD
We found the Famous Duval Street, ticking another item off my bucket list… then moved on to the next item… chocolate dipped key lime pie on a stick.  Brittney found us a source and Bruce quickly paid for the four decadent desserts before I could pile any more goodies onto the checkout counter.  

He’s learned…  We hung out in the air conditioned shop and enjoyed our treats.  Definitely better than fried key lime pie…  Who thinks this stuff up?

That’s not all  I found myself asking that question about as we stepped out of the shop in time to see this thing rounding the corner to disappear down a side street.  I think it’s a gawdy red bed… on wheels… flanked by dudes, well er, I think they were dudes…  

While Brittney shopped for goodies to take back home, we hung out on the streets and I couldn’t help but notice that these young men were oddly dressed.  

Bruce asked a woman in a uniform what was going on as the streets were roped off and what looked like a finish line was being assembled.  She told him that there was to be a “bed race” to raise money for AIDS research in just a bit.  I wanted to stay around and watch, but I was the only one, so I got out voted.  Our guys aren’t as ready to deal with their phobias as I am evidently...

Brittney wanted to get back to the boat before it was too late to snorkel so I guess that’s a worthy alternative to watching scantily clad men race around in decorated beds…  But the guys did stop long enough to pick out a couple of cigars to enjoy after dinner tomorrow night.  

Bruce often likes to sit on the back deck and enjoy a nice cigar… well, a cheap cigar will do, but it’s the thought that counts.  

We hustled back through the streets of Key West, finally satisfied that we had done all of the things we’d come here for and saw a “different” side of the town that we had missed on our two previous visits here.  

We stopped on the base to visit the commissary for some dinner fixin’s for tomorrow evening.  It was another perk of being with Scott that we had access to the grocery store on the Base.  Good thing too or we would have been eating spaghetti or something instead of the nice steaks we found there…

We raced back to the boat and donned our snorkel gear and suits, then put Scott at the tiller to get us out to the channel where we had passed some prime snorkeling spots yesterday.  

The water was so clear and the perfect temperature.  The guys were in first of course, and Brittney and I took our time to get ready, nothing to do with making sure something didn’t EAT the guys before we committed…

Right away I found this hole filled with spiny lobster!  I would not believe it!  There were two big ones poking their spiny things out and I could see at least one other hiding behind them.  I hovered over their lair and the bravest one kept his pointy ends aimed in my direction the whole time.  I finally got spooked and gave up watching them and swam off to see what else there was to see.

The lobsters were by far the most exciting thing, but the rest was cool enough.  There were some dull colored fish swimming in the depths of the channel and a few tiny colorful fish around, but not a whole lot of life here.  I swam out onto the shallow shelf and found the underwater flora and the few coral pieces to be entertainment enough.  I just really enjoy being stretched out on the water’s surface and gliding along as one with nature.  

We eventually began to get cold and hungry and one by one, returned to the dinghy for the short ride back to the boat.  The kids had some energy left to expend, so they left us old folks enjoying the setting sun on the aft deck and headed back to Key West for dinner out and a look at Mallory Square.  We were happy to hang out here in this tranquil place while they went out and had some fun.  Scott has his orders to leave for Pensacola in two weeks so they need all the “alone time” they can get.  Bruce and I were in bed early and I never even heard the kids arrive back home some time in the night.

They must not have been out too late because Brittney was up and making coffee before either Bruce or I.  She was determined to make that yoga-on-the-beach date so she and Scott were once again… off to Key West.  This left Bruce and I alone to enjoy the aforementioned unlimited water and AC to get the boat cleaned up.  We spent the entire morning doing chores and Bruce was glad to get some of the growth from our month in the fertile waters of Marathon scraped off the bottom.  

The kids arrived back at lunch time and Brittney was ready to hit the tiny Boca Chica Beach.  She and I took off with our cheapo floaties while Scott got to learn how to clean the boat bottom.  Hey, he wanted to!  And there’s a LOT of bottom!  Besides, it was fun for him.  He got to see big fish swimming around them with no fear.  

Brittney and I got to spend some much need mother/daughter time just hanging out in the water and enjoying the sunshine and this fine day…

It’s SO nice to have the kids come visit but it DOES make me miss them more when they go.  As usual, I’m by this time already becoming a little melancholy about their impending departure.  These times are such fun I just don’t want them to end…

But, end they do and all too soon it was time for us to head back to the boat so that we could make it to the office for check-in before they close… and before it was time for us to check back out!  We gathered Scott and found the boat bottom had just been pronounced CLEAN!  Let the evening festivities commence!

While Brittney took her shower, Scott enjoyed a little free time in the water around the boat.  Remember, while we had frittered away our afternoon, he had worked hard!  He took one giant leaping dive off the end of the dock and that was enough.  

While Scott showered, Brittney started working on dinner.  It’s nice to have kids with dietary needs that I can’t fulfill… They have to cook for themselves or they get whatever I throw together… 

I was off duty as the guys took care of the outdoor portion of the dinner… remember those luscious steaks?  The guys lounged on the back deck while the grill did it’s magic and very soon we were enjoying our last meal together.  The food was delicious enough for Scott to lick his plate clean.  Yes, with a giant slurp he sure did!  His Mom would be so proud!  I’m sure we will continue to remind him of that moment for many years to come…   

After dinner we retired to the cockpit for the men to smoke their cigars.  They were evidently not the greatest but what do you expect from a street vendor in a tourist town?  Our visit wound down and we had an early night.  The kids would be up and out at 2am to get to Ft. Lauderdale for an 8:30 flight home.  I was sad to say goodbye but so glad of the time, the fun and the memories we’ve made this weekend.  

The alarm clocks rang and I sadly watched the kids melt into the darkness as they made their way down the dock in the middle of the night.  But as it was when our other daughter visited a few weeks ago, we hardly had time to be sad with the business of cruising life taking precedence as soon as they left.

When morning arrived, we readied our now-empty boat for the return trip to Marathon.  While Brittney and Scott were being whisked back to their lives in Corpus Christi, we were slowly motoring away from this idillic oasis to pound our way in the waters of the Atlantic back to the safety of Boot Key Harbor.

Trimming sails

Anytime theres more than one boat... it's a race!

Few remaining crab pots

A beautiful day to get back to Marathon...

Caddywhompus parking job!
We stopped short and docked (I use that term lightly) at Marathon Boat Yard for some engine work early the next morning.  And so, with our Boca Chica Interlude at it’s end, we are plunged back into Cruising life… 

I love Plumeria