Coconut Grove, FL
Monday, December 22 – Thursday, December 25, 2003

We filled the next couple of days with walks, boat maintenance chores, laundry and preparations for Christmas.  This is the time we need to prep for the Bahamas part of our trip so we need to be sure everything is ship-shape.  One of the priorities, though, was to decorate for Christmas.  (We both were feeling a bit gloomy and missing our family and friends.)  Sandy cleaned the inside of the boat and then decorated.  We hung Christmas cards we’d been sent on the overhead handholds in the cabin, set out the Christmas tree and some small gifts and got a small poinsettia.  We’d hung a wreath on the mast the day we arrived and Bill hung colored lights around the lifelines.  All-in-all, the boat took on a real holiday mood and it really felt like the holidays while we were aboard!

We met a couple who owned an O’Day 35 and kept their boat in the marina. They were from west of Chicago and take vacations to Coconut Grove to cruise on their boat.  They were very nice and offered to haul us to the local Publix for some groceries.  On the way there, we stopped at Flanigan’s Pub for dinner.  Afterward, we invited them back to our boat for drinks, along with another couple we’d met, Fred and Sarah, who had just purchased a 52’ Irwin. 

Decorated for Christmas
Decorated for Christmas

On Christmas eve, Sandy went shopping and, Bill, on his way to meet her, met Roger & Elaine (Doc No More, a Manta 42 catamaran) who we’d seen in Brunswick, GA.  We talked for awhile and agreed to meet for breakfast on Christmas morning at one of the sidewalk restaurants in the shopping area.  (Yes, most of the restaurants were open Christmas morning!)  That afternoon the mail package from home that we’d been waiting for finally arrived.

Early that evening we opened the pile of Christmas cards that came in the mail which gave us a nice, fuzzy feeling.   We also made some phone calls to friends and family.  After watching the best of Andy Williams’ Christmas shows on TV (which Sandy fondly remembered watching with her mom), we attended an 11:00 Christmas Eve service at the local Episcopal church, the only church we cold find that was a reasonable walk from the marina.  The service was very nice and made us feel like Christmas was really happening.

On Christmas day we opened gifts from each other and from friends who’d sent us early ones.  It was nice … not home, but definitely Christmas.  Then, we headed out for breakfast with Roger & Elaine.  It wasn’t turkey with all the trimmings, but we had a great time and delicious late morning breakfast.  We lingered for two hours over the meal and another three hours aboard our boat.  More calls went out to family and friends and, all-in-all, it made for a really nice Christmas after all.

Christmas Brunch with DocNoMore
Christmas Brunch with Roger & Elaine of DocNoMore

Coconut Grove to Dinner Key, FL
Friday, December 26, 2003

We were about Coconut Groved out by now and decided to join Roger & Elaine (Doc No More) in the anchorage just outside the marina.  This is a popular anchorage, though a bit bumpy with an easterly breeze.  We anchored among the wide variety of boats there, including many boats that are used only as homes and that never lift their anchors.  Some were pretty beat up.

Bill dinghyed over to Doc No More to talk awhile and stopped by Bel Ami, the boat of Chris Parker and Mike Zidzinunas.  Chris, who does weather forecasting professionally, was not there but Mike was.  They talked about lots of stuff, including crossing to the Bahamas (Mike’s done the crossing more than 70 times) and Chesapeake log canoes, which he’s raced quite a bit.  Mike recommended some alternate crossing routes and also suggested Boca Chita Key as a nice way to spend a couple of days while waiting for weather to cross.

Earlier, Roger & Elaine had invited us over for cocktails, which we accepted.  We went over that evening to tour the boat (a Manta 42 catamaran).  It was both spacious and beautiful and we had a nice visit, returning to our boat well after dark.

Dinner Key to Boca Chita Key, FL
Saturday, December 27, 2003

With the easterly wind continuing, we decided to opt for some quiet water and headed for Boca Chita Key, about 15 miles south.  Boca Chita Key is part of a National Seashore.  The small, protected harbor was full when we arrived but Mary Ann & Marv (boat named M&Ms) let us raft up for the night.  These folks were very friendly.  They live in Bradenton, FL, and Boca Chita is one of their regular stops.

Lighthouse at Boca Chita
Lighthouse at Boca Chita

We walked the path around this small island and picked up a few seashells.  The island was originally developed by one of the Honeywells of home thermostat and industrial control fame.  His wife died in an accidental fall on the island and he stopped development at that point.  Somewhere along the line the key came under the National Park Service.  Then, Hurricane Andrew devastated the island.  Repairs and upgrades were completed a few years ago and the park reopened.

People picnic and camp on the island, arriving only by boat.  There is no fresh water and you have to pack your trash out.  But, it is a beautiful spot.   Sunsets are great!

Boca Chita Sunset
Boca Chita Sunset

Sunday, December 28, 2003
Boca Chita Key, FL
Tied Up at Boca Chita Seawall
Tied Up at Boca Chita Seawall

This is a popular place and deservedly so.  Though small, and heavily used, it is still beautiful.  The water is clear and blue and you can easily see the bottom in ten feet of water.  Fishing is also popular, here, with lots of boats anchoring or drifting close to the island.

We eventually moved the boat when a space opened up and made acquaintance with Gene & Ann (Breezy Rider).  Their home is in LaPlata, MD, and they are planning on cruising the Florida Keys this winter.

That evening we invited M&Ms and Breezy Rider over for cocktails and had a fun conversation with all.