Friday, January 06, 2006

Chapter IV, Part 7. Key West and the Voyage Home

Chapter IV: Tarpon Springs, Florida to Marathon, Florida, plus 20 miles (cont.)

Part 7. Key West and the Return Voyage, Days 26 to 30

Mar. 21, 2004 (Sun.), Day 26

Robin and I had requested a taxi to pick us up at 7:45 a.m. She was late and didn’t arrive until almost 8:00 a.m. We arrived at the Marathon Airport at about 8:15 a.m. We checked out an Oldsmobile compact form Avis and started traveling north. We stopped for breakfast at the “Little Italy” restaurant in the town of Layton on Long Key. After we were seated at a table the waitress approached us and asked what we would like for breakfast. Robin answered, “I would like to have two eggs over medium please”. I guess she was feeling frisky because she looked him in the eye and replies, “We don’t have any more eggs.” I looked at her and said, “I guess you will have to go and squeeze a chicken.” That caused the three of us to respond with laughter.

We crossed the state of Florida going through the Everglades Park, also known as “Alligator Alley”. We didn’t see any alligators. We arrived at Tarpon Springs and claimed Robin’s truck and boat trailer from storage at about 5:00 p.m. We then located the Avis Car rental office only to find that they close at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday and do not allow after hours car return. We found a motel for the night about one mile from Avis. We drove 484 miles in about 8 hours.

Mar. 22, 2004 (Mon.), Day 27

Robin and I returned to the Avis office promptly at 8:00 a.m., which is when they start their business day. I turned in the key and paperwork for the Avis car, which we left in their parking lot last evening. Robin was driving his truck pulling the empty boat trailer as I did all the driving yesterday. We stopped for breakfast before traveling south very far. We took a slight detour to the Paradise Yacht Club Marina which is in the Fort Meyers area. A friend of Robins whose name is Howard Ellsworth owns a 36 foot Heritage Trawler. Robin spent 21 days on this boat helping Howard relocate the boat from the Chesapeake Bay to Dunedin, Florida, last year. After leaving Howard we continued south and arrived back at Marathon about 8:30 p.m. We traveled about 490 miles today.

Mar. 23, 2004 (Tue.), Day 28

Today started out very early for me, and even earlier for Robin. The wind was blowing very hard last night and at about 1:0 a.m. Robin was concerned enough about our anchor that he got up to keep a watch on our boat in case it started to move. At about 3:00 a.m. he decided to put out the other anchor so I got up to help handle anchor lines and assist Robin with the dinghy. The second anchor also attached to our bow stabilized our oscillating back and forth. All seemed well so we both went back to bed and slept well.

After we were up for the day we tuned into a local VHF network consisting of other boat owners in Boot Key harbor. It was very interesting and lasted about 40 minutes. We then dinghied to the marina and located a boat ramp right in Boot Key Harbor. We left Robin’s truck and boat trailer at the ramp and returned to Spirit Song. The wind was still blowing strong. It only took us a few minutes to motor to the ramp and at about 3:00 p.m. Spirit Song was back on her trailer. This is always the saddest time of our journeys for me as I am sure it is for Robin. It took Robin about 2 hours to wash the boat with fresh water, fold the mast back, and prepare her for the road. We are now parked alongside of a highway in Key West, Florida.

Mar. 24, 2004 (Wed.), Day 29

After breakfast at IHOP we took a short self-guided tour of Key West. One point of interest was that we drove to the most southerly place in the (continental) USA which is 24 degrees, 33 minutes north latitude. At about 11:30 a.m., we left Key West and started traveling east (north) along the Florida Keys. We made several short stops along the way to do some light shopping. Once we were back on the mainland, Robin spent about 1-1/2 hours trying to stop a dragging brake lining on the left trailer wheel. It is better but he will look at it again in the morning. We stopped at an Applebee’s restaurant for an oriental chicken salad which we both enjoyed. We are now parked at a rest stop on I 75.

Mar. 25, 2004 (Thu.), Day 30

Robin and I enjoyed a reasonably quiet night considering we were in a rest area that truckers frequent with their diesel engines at idle for the night. This morning I packed my belongings from the trip home. After leaving the rest area we enjoyed a breakfast of steak and eggs at a local Waffle House restaurant. We then drove the 50 or so miles to the Tampa Airport where Robin and I said our goodbyes at about 1:00 p.m. and he left by himself for the long (1800 miles) drive back to Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Neal and Robin at the end of one of their cruises.

I am now at 31,000 feet altitude on the second American Airlines fight home. The first leg was from Tampa to Dallas/Fort Worth and the second from Dallas/Fort Worth to San Jose, California. This has been a wonderful experience to travel the entire Gulf Coast over a period of four years with my brother. We have sailed/motored approximately two thousand miles and enjoyed every mile. This is the end of the final chapter of “Sailing the Ditch.”


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