Wishing Star Interlude


Lisa Targal Favors

Although we have recently been focusing on and researching boats for our future vessel, our trip to Florida also had a little respite from boat shopping. Our friend Rick Garton needed his Fathom 40 (yes just like our recently sold Fathom) moved, after the Trawler Fest, from Fort Lauderdale to Key West. When he asked if we’d be interested in the job we jumped at the chance to cruise this route through the Florida Keys; one of our all-time favorite cruising grounds.

We haven’t done much boating since we put Kismet on the hard in Key West almost a year ago. We had bought a house in northern Michigan (as you may already know, we’d been houseless for five years) and did not have the idea in our heads to sell it until several months after we were well settled in our new home. As we became adjusted to living in a house again, our priorities slowly seemed to change. After a lot of discussion and laying the groundwork for what type of boating would now fit our new situation, we put our Fathom 40 up for sale and lo and behold, it sold in just a few months. It was kind of a shock to our systems as we thought there would be a little more cruising time on our Fathom before we sold her. However the quick selling of the boat seemed to go along with our new plan as it has enabled us to move quickly toward making our plans, for new boating adventures on a trailerable trawler, a reality.

We think Rick kind of knew about our mixed feelings of selling our Fathom so quickly, especially since we never got to have a “good bye” cruise on her, so his offer to move his boat and spend 10 glorious days cruising through the Keys, was like music to our ears.

Sunday morning, the day after The Fort Lauderdale Trawler Fest, we arrived at Wishing Star with our bags and a few groceries. Rick had gone over all the particulars the night before so we were almost immediately ready to shove off. We stowed the provisions and settled in very quickly. It was hard to remember that we were not on our Kismet, but another boat identical to her. Rick’s Fathom is a model boat for HarborView Yacht Sales and he’s done a remarkable job appointing the boat with some very nice decorating items, so these helped to remind us what boat we were on.

This decorative lighthouse adds to the impressive entrance to Boca Chita Island.

On a picture perfect day, we shoved off from the dock and headed for our destination for the day, Boca Chita Island just south of Miami, midway on Biscayne Bay and the entrance to the Keys. We had tied up here only once before on our way north to Fort Lauderdale in 2009, just before we crossed over to the Abaco Islands in the Bahamas. We met our friends Charlie and Linda, Freedoms Turn, there at that time and I remember how we all not only marveled at the island’s remote beauty, but enjoyed a beautiful sunset and celebrated Jim’s birthday. We said many times that day, “We HAVE to come back here!” Well, the island was just as we remembered and with the excellent weather, we were having during the beginning of our trip we decided to make our visit a two-night stay.

When we arrived there were only two other boats docked in the Boca Chita harbor, which made for a very quiet evening tied to the wall.

We met another boater, from New Bern, North Carolina, on a Choy Lee yacht at Boca Chita. He was heading slowly down the Keys to winter in Key West. We walked the trail and saw a few Portuguese Man-O-War jellyfish washed up on shore and later heard these nasty stinging creatures were washed up all along the Florida coast. We enjoyed a couple very relaxing happy hours, we could just feel the stress of the cold weather in Michigan rolling off our backs. It was a nice way to start our trip, which would get busier and busier as we neared our destination, the lively Key West port and city.

We climbed up the lighthouse to get this shot of the harbor, which was catching the last warm rays of the sun before it set.

I could have stayed a few more days at Boca Chita, it was that nice but Jim was concerned about our weather window and making sure we made all the other stops we had planned, he worries a lot that way. So, Monday morning, just after sunrise and a leisurely breakfast, we untied the lines and took a long last look at the beautiful Boca Chita Island as we exited the harbor.

On our second day at Boca Chita, lunch was served on the beach, just a short walking distance from the harbor.

I really didn’t have to be concerned that our quiet interlude would come to a halt since Tuesday night we grabbed a mooring ball at Shell Key and experienced one of the most stunning sunsets EVER! It was absolutely still, calm and the sky burned like embers in a fire long after the sun hid behind the horizon. There weren’t even many bugs that night so we could keep the doors open and have fresh air while we absorbed the close of the day.

This sunset was our entertainment for the night; the color and glow seemed to last forever.

Next morning we were on our way to a boat club in Marathon. Our friends Wade and Susie, Shady Lady, arranged a slip for us there and we were anxious to see our old “Looper” friends. We met Wade and Susie on our first Loop trip; we were both picking up mail in Grafton, Illinois and have been friends since. We arrived mid-morning to Harbour Cay Club and with docking out of the way Wade gave us a tour of the facilities, which we immediately fell in love with. (Mental note: Good place to dock when in Marathon.) Two days worth of catching up, happy hours and dinners followed along with an excellent walk on the seven mile bridge our first morning there (a 4.5 mile walk, there and back). Later in the afternoon, we borrowed their car to visit the grocery store and take a little side trip over to Sombrero Marina where more boating friends were wintering.

Wade and Susie suggested we take a mid-morning walk on Pigeon Key Bridge. We’ve driven by this old bridge many times and always thought it would be fun to take a walk on it. Four and a half miles later we decided we all got our exercise in for the day. Scott and Cyndi, from Houghton, Michigan are really living the life in the Keys. They sailed down to Marathon from Mobile, Alabama, where they keep their boat during the summer, in the fall and have spent most of the winter in Marathon.

We enjoyed a warm and welcoming visit with Robert and Kay on C-Life, and Margie and Larry on Wanderin’ L&M (we met them all during our second Loop trip in 2008) and later in the day, along with Wade and Susie, we met up with Scott and Cyndi, Chip Ahoy, for happy hour. Cyndi is one of the contributors in our book, Women On Board Cruising (favorsventures.com). She brought her signature copy to our get-together for me to sign for her.

Robert and Kay on C-Life and Larry and Margie onboard Wanderin’ L&M were a sight for sore eyes. We haven’t seen since we all reunited in Marathon over a year ago.

After two nights enjoying Wade and Susie’s company, we had one more leg of the trip to make before we reached our destination of Key West Harbor. It was a fairly good day to cruise Hawks Channel, not real calm but not bad. On our way down, we were looking forward to the few days we had left to enjoy the ambience of the jewel of the Keys – Key West.

We were happy that we enjoyed a pleasant happy hour our first night settled into the marina on the bow of the boat absorbing all the sights and sounds (people and music) emanating from town. It was still quite warm but the ideal weather window would slowly close down every day after that. We were happy we hadn’t dawdled and got to port before the wind picked up. By the time we left Key West, it had turned a little cold and rainy but in comparison to the frigid north this time of year, we didn’t complain at all. The town reflected the change in weather with a little less activity but we really didn’t mind that at all.

El Caney Café is one of our new favorite Cuban restaurants in the Keys. Located on Stock Island (next island up from Key West) we always get our money’s worth on good, home cooked, Cuban fare.

One of our favorite things to do in this tropical paradise is to visit our favorite restaurants. Not the touristy ones downtown but the little, out of the way ones where there isn’t much English spoken. El Caney Cafe on Stock Island and a Mediterranean restaurant, Kennedy’s Café, out of town by the shopping area, are currently two of our favorites.

The day we arrived in Key West it was practically vibrating with music and people sounds. We decided to take some snacks out on the bow and just listen.

After four days on board Wishing Star at the downtown Key West Bights A&B Marina, we were ready to head back north. Rick had left his car at the marina, so we drove it to Fort Lauderdale to meet him at the airport. We still had a few days left in Fort Lauderdale before we flew home to Michigan and a few of those days were spent looking at more trailerable trawlers. One day we were able to connect for lunch with our good friends, Hal and Maryanne (Hal is the Harbormaster at the Charlevoix City Marina, MI). Our little southern interlude was just what we needed; a few great reunions with friends, lots of good food, mostly good weather and a welcome and relaxing cruise through the Keys and special time away to spend with my favorite boating companion – that would be Jim, of course.