Go for Launch

Flipper was a Dolphin

As a kid growing up in the 60’s the Space race was big news. I remember seeing one of the missions in my school classroom on a rolling black and white TV. My friends and family would talk about the Apollo Missions to the Moon. Then in more recent times the Shuttle missions were in the news. I never made it to Cape Canaveral to see a launch in person but I always wanted to. On the Great Loop Trip we were going to travel right past the Kennedy Space Center, so a stop to visit it was required. We planned a stay at Ocean Club Marina for a few days. My Son Garrett flew in and we purchased tickets in advance to tour the Kennedy Space Center. I highly recommend a visit. All of the displays are done very well with many of them highly interactive. The size of these rockets up close are jaw dropping. Past, current, and future aspects of the space program are covered. For the future we mainly hear about Space X in the news , but NASA, Boeing, United Space Alliance and many more operate from the center on future projects.

The best part was taking a Bus tour of the Cape grounds. We were able to get close to several Launch pads, Crawler transporters for rockets, and Launch control buildings. Seeing the Vehicle Assembly Building up close was awesome. The Skyscraper building you can see for miles. One of the massive doors was open and we could see workers (they seemed like ants) repairing a launch tower.

The icing on the cake was a scheduled launch of a Space – X heavy rocket while we were in Port Canaveral. This one had 3 boosters very similar to a Heavy rocket test launched a few years ago with Elon Musk’s Telsa convertible as payload. This one carried a Saudi Arabian Satellite. There were a couple of weather delays and we had to move on from Port Canaveral.  On Thursday, april 11th, we found a fantastic anchorage 10 miles from launch pad 39a with an unobstructed view. We were able to witness the entire launch and booster rockets return. Smoke and flames were easy to follow as the rocket went up and then the sound. A low rumble almost like distant thunder and we could feel a little of the sound pressure. We watched the booster rockets return to earth and land. Upon reentry they made a sonic boom which we heard and felt. It was all over quickly but a memory to last a long time.

A series of pictures from KSC and the launch.

 

 

Our view for the Launch. The arrow points to Launch Pad 39a.

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Go for Launch, Dorothy was a little excited, use sound.

 

2 Boosters landing

 

This stop will  make the top 10 list of our great loop adventure.

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Key Largo and heading North

After leaving Marathon Key and saying a good bye to our new sea turtle friends we headed Northeast to Key Largo Fl.  I flew back to Milwaukee to Moderate US Sailings Safety at Sea seminars in Chicago. Dorothy invited a few of her Girl friends to visit SEASONS for a long weekend. Most of them live in colder climates so this trip was a nice break from the cold.

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Pam, Dorothy, Lori, Susan, and Robin had a great time on Seasons and in Key Largo.

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After leaving Key Largo we are on the move north.

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Over the next 5 nights we anchored out and covered 250 miles. Most of the anchorages were great. Its kind of fun dropping a hook 300 feet in front of a 32 million dollar mansion. The only activity we saw was the pool boy and a landscaper working.

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The trip on the Intercoastal Waterway past Miami and Ft Lauderdale is filled with large homes and big yachts. Boats are required to slow down and reduce wake through this area which extends the amount of time we are on the water. But the sight seeing is worth it. This yacht below was parked in front of their mansion.

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I had to stop taking pictures after a while, there were so many.

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On our way North we passed Mar a Lago. Boats are allowed to pass POTUS’s southern retreat, but the US Coast Guard was not going to tolerate anyone veering off course. The machine gun with gunner in helmet and bullet proof jacket was intimidating. They shadowed us as we passed by. We gave them a thumbs up and did get them to wave to us.

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Ok, a couple of more boat pictures from the Palm Beach boat show as we passed by.

We anchored near west Palm Beach and in the evening we had our own little fire works show just for us. Actually we think the show was for one of the private homes along the ocean side of the anchorage. Maybe a birthday or anniversary party for someone.

 

Check out the name of this restaurant, SEASONS 52, I am thinking we need to celebrate our 52nd anniversary here. We are at 30 seasons now. I hope I can remember the place in a few years.

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And your sunset shot.

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The next stop in a Marina is Port Canaveral.

 

Sea Turtles

While we stayed at Marathon Key we had a couple of encounters with Sea Turtles. The first was a Sea Turtle release at Sombrero Beach. When the turtles have been rehabilitated and are healthy they are released back to natural environment, the Atlantic Ocean. Dorothy found out about the release and we rode our bikes over to Sombrero beach early to get a good viewing spot. We had to wait from about an hour but it was worth the investment in time. In the photo from the local paper you can see we had a front row viewing.

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The Turtle Hospital in Marathon is a must stop. Take the tour, learn the history, and see the work this non-profit organization does on a daily basis. I had no idea there was such a need. They have returned thousands of endangered turtles back into the wild. The hospital treats turtles which are injured from boat strikes and fishing gear entanglement. Also sea turtles can have natural problems like tumors and gas build up that prevents them from diving for food.

 

Dorothy would make a great driver  in retirement.

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They have 2 fully equipped operating rooms with turtle Vets on standby.

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Some Sea Turtles can not be released back into the wild for various reasons. So there is a huge salt water pool where they live out the rest of their lives.

We have only seen one Sea Turtle on our trip so far. It was a quick glimpse as it came up for air and immediately dove out of sight.

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Marathon Key

Dorothy and I spent a little time in  Marathon Key. Here are some highlights.

Crawl Key anchorage.

I may have mentioned this before, Dorothy and I try to moderate our Marina stays with anchoring out in open water. We have set up SEASONS to be very self sufficient when we are not plugged in to the shore. There is a propane stove and grill for cooking, 12 volt refrigeration and freezer, an extra set of 12 volt house batteries for power, 300 gallons of fresh water and if needed we have a diesel powered generator for 120 volt power (seldom used). Crawl Key is one of those off the beaten path secluded little keys to hide behind. No other boats around except for an occasional fisherman going by. No sounds other than nature, water lapping, birds on the hunt, and a fish jump once in a while. At night the boat gently rocks and the stars in the sky are ablaze. Thanks to some suggested star gazing apps from friends, I am getting better at recognizing the constellations.

This video demonstrates the interaction of a stronger wind and a tidal current on our boat at anchor. Current usually overpowers the wind effects. I am facing forward on the boat, the wind is blowing 20 knots from my right, we should swing so the bow of the boat is facing into the wind, however, the current push on the hull is 5 knots from the left.  If there was no wind we would swing into the current, so the boat finds a happy balance, it takes a little getting used to.

Marathon Key and the Marlin Bay Yacht Club

This place is a little slice of Paradise. It is fairly new and they are out to impress boaters. The Staff was awesome and very helpful. The facilities are first class and very clean. The pool was beautiful just look at the picture. We already booked a couple of weeks for next year. Our boat,  SEASONS, is at the far end of the photo.

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Marathon Seafood Festival

We were right across the street from this great 2 day food, craft, and music festival.  We brought our folding lawn chairs and set up camp for the day. Very good local artists performed on stage in a wide variety of music types. There was beautiful art work we wanted to purchase, if only it fit on a boat. Beer and other drinks were a little pricey and the food was just OK. We had much better dishes at some of the local establishments. I was on the lookout for Shrimp and Grits on a stick, but food on a stick is not big here. Maybe a new thing at the Wisconsin State Fair next year.

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Best Food we found,

Keys Fishery – Their signature Lobster Ruben Sandwich was so good. (Had it twice)

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Florida Keys Steak and Lobster House – Coconut encrusted Lobster tail

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Irie Island Eats – Fish Tacos special for lunch. Great island seasoning

Burdines Pub and Grill – Fish sandwich and the best fries around

Overseas Pub and Grill – Just a good Cheeseburger

The Stuffed Pig – Fun breakfast place

Its a good thing we had our bikes to offset the calorie intake. We enjoyed bike riding quite a bit and became used to drivers being oblivious to us. We biked somewhere almost everyday, finding reasons to go for a ride.

One of the highlights was the Marathon Yacht Club. We stopped in for a cocktail and to check out the place. The people were very nice and invited us back for Thursday Happy Hour Bottle Cap Bingo. We had never heard of the game before, so we had to go back and try it. It was a blast with 40 or so members playing around the bar. A little hard to explain the game but a lot of fun. We didn’t win anything though.

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Our friends James and Mary  Jane, who we met at Marlin Bay went on a day boat trip with us to Sombrero Reef for a great day of snorkeling. There are moorings at the reef, if you manage to get there early and grab one. The 4 of us spent quite a few hours snorkeling on the 3rd largest reef in the world. Its nice to have your own boat at the reef and take breaks and have a little lunch. There is so much to see in 20 feet of water, large schools of fish, lobster under rocks, and lots of very colorful reef fish. I was swimming along looking down when I noticed a large Barracuda at my eye level just looking at me, they are not aggressive, but when you see those teeth its very unnerving. Time for Brian to swim away.  By the time we left, other boats where waiting for our mooring ball.

The smiling Palm tree next to our boat in Marathon Key.

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Some sunsets from Marathon Key

The next seasonsunderway.blog is all about the Turtle Hospital.

Friends, old and new

We are meeting wonderful people on our adventure. There are so many great conversations. One of the things we enjoy most is getting a glimpse of their lives as we travel through it for a short time. The loop provides a chance to meet others with shared experiences and often times the conversation turns to activities related to a segment both have traveled and perspective both have had.

Dorothy and I love to talk to locals, People who live and work where we visit. Most are happy to share thoughts and opinions on things to see, places to eat, local politics, real estate, other people to meet and lately their Hurricane IRMA stories.

Key West bait and Tackle is one of those great local places. Their main business is fishing stuff but they have 6 bar stools and sell beer. The local charter fisherman hang there and can make purchases on account like the old days.

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Here we are just hanging out in Andy’s back yard in Old Key West.

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Guy deBoer started the Konk Life newspaper and was great to talk to about local happenings. We met him on the “BENCH” which is where locals gather to talk and listen to music across the street from the Green Parrot.

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Sailing friends Tom and Laura had us over to their house for a great snapper dinner.

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Jennifer and Billy spent a couple of days with us on the boat.

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A couple of tourist photos we took because you have to.

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The Catman preforming at Mallory Square is crazy. He is a  must see when you visit. I think he crazy smart because he has developed his act into a marketing marvel, selling stickers, t-shirts and CD’s while taking tips from the crowd. We watched people throw 20 dollar bills into his bucket.

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A sunset photo from a different angle

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Key West Part II

Foodie update! We do eat locally several times a week, but I do not take pictures of everything, just the outstanding or different ones. The first picture is Hogfish from the Hogfish grill on Stock Island. A really light flaky fish that melts in your mouth.

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Best Shrimp and Grits, the quest continues. This entry is from Blue Heaven in Key West. The shrimp was very good and tender. The scallops added a nice flavor to the grits. The consistency of the grits was just OK, still smooth but lacking something. They used white cheddar cheese on the grits which was a little stringy. I think I like Gouda cheese better for flavor on my grits.

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We are experiencing new forms of wildlife. I finally got to see my first Manatee. This one was swimming around in the marina. These things have no fear of anything. Very slow moving, you could even call it graceful. Manatees are very protected in Florida, no feeding, touching, watering (they like fresh water and some people will run their hose to attract them) and boats must avoid them at all costs.

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Dorothy breaking the rules as usual, touching the Manatee. Their skin is soft and fatty.

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Iguanas are everywhere in the Keys. They are as bad as rabbits and deer in the north. They eat all the good plants in garden and landscaping. Homeowners even plant Iguana resistant plants. It is legal and encouraged to kill these things. We saw this one riding our bikes the other day, he was about 4′ long.

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I had another fishing lesson. This time 30 miles out into the Atlantic. We were after Tuna this time and trolled with several lines out. We found tuna and reeled 2 keepers in, then things went bad. We would get a fish on and then all of sudden something started to take it straight to the bottom. This happened several times then we saw the culprit. Dolphins (Porpoise) were grabbing the hooked fish and running with them and we came up empty. We moved to a couple other areas but there was not much else out there.

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I have one more Key West installment to post talking about some of the people we have met. For now here is your Sunset photo.

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