I promised myself that I would continue to blog once a week during our time in the Keys. It can sometimes be difficult to find the motivation when staying in one place for an extended amount of time — especially a place we have already visited at length and written many blog posts about. I’m pushing myself to keep up though because I really enjoy having a consistent record to look back on.
With that said, here’s what we’ve been up to over the last week and a half. The highlights of our days continue to be the time we spend out on the water. When we were here two years ago we didn’t have our own kayaks and instead relied on borrowed boats. Having our own definitely encourages us to get out more. Especially since they are already in the water and we can simply hop in and go.
Outside out canal, the water is very shallow and clear making it perfect for kayaks, and no so great for bigger boats. I find kayaking is always more enjoyable when you don’t need to look out for large boats who might run you down. We’ve been exploring around the small keys that dot the area. Some have names, like Howe and Annette Key, while others are simply marked on the map as “mangroves”. I have not yet figured out what parameters decide whether it gets an official name or not, but I suspect it has something to do with the land composition of the island. Many of the smaller islands with no names are comprised solely of mangroves with no solid ground. It’s nearly impossible to explore these keys on foot unless you want to fight and balance your way through a thick tangle of roots and foliage (and possibly snakes and spiders). Much better to simply look from the water.
After paddling around several keys, including one that was filled with hundreds of birds, we headed back towards our canal for sunset.
A few days later we had our RV friends, Jill, Brandon & Kerensa, over for a group kayak. They all have inflatable kayaks and I was worried about everyone getting in and out at our dock since it’s a big drop down and you basically have to step inside your kayak to get in. I guess the inflatables are sturdier than I thought though because everyone got in like pros — even the dogs. Little Logan wore his life jacket like a champ.
It was on the windy side that day so we stuck close to shore and explored a few short paths through the mangroves. I have zero experience with inflatable kayaks, but after seeing how they struggle in the wind — especially the higher profile two-person Sea Eagle, I’m happy with our decision to go with hard sided boats.
Which reminds me that we’ve now had our kayaks for about a year and a half, and I really need to write a blog post summing up our thoughts and experiences. It’s one of the most common questions we get from readers so I know people are interested. It will happen soon, I promise!
Later in the week, the wind died down and we went out on a different type of boat — the kind that replaces arm strength with gas power. As soon as we made definite plans to be here for a few months Tim started talking about buying a small power boat. Nothing too big or fancy, but something that we could take a few friends out on for snorkeling or cruising.
There’s no shortage of boats for sale down here and we found a few in our price range and looked like they might be water worthy. But after a lot of back and forth, it was decided that the hassle of owning a boat and having to sell it before we left simply wasn’t worth it. Winter is the windy season in the Keys, and when you combine that limitation with work during the week, the number of times we could actually use a boat is pretty limited.
Fortunately, my dad’s neighbor has a small 16′ boat that he agreed to let us use. It was a perfect solution. So far we’ve been out twice. Once on a somewhat windy day to test some of the engine adjustments that Tim made, and then again on a calm day for a longer cruise and some snorkeling.
Not far from shore, I spotted some movement in the water ahead of us. Dolphins! There was at least a dozen of them and as we slowly circled around they followed us occasionally surfacing and jumping out of the water.
We weren’t prepared to go all the way out to the reef for snorkeling that day, so we simply found a shallow spot and jumped in to explore. We saw a few giant sponges, lots of striped Sergeant major fish, and some cool looking coral. Tim swears he saw a large shark hanging out next to an old crab trap, but no one else saw it so it could be that he’s just telling a fish tale :)
Back on land, we’ve been busy keeping up with our abundant social schedule. In addition to the weekly Bocce night at my dad’s house, we also had a few dinners out with friends. First, we met up with Heather and Brian who are fairly new Airstreamers. They’re just getting the hang of this whole full-time RVer thing and it was fun to chat with them about all the places they hope to visit and how they are adjusting to RV life. Be sure to check out their blog, Tinned Sokuls. Oh, and if you ever find your way to Mangrove Mama’s on Sugarloaf Key I highly recommend the fish tacos, but the Key Lime pie was just okay and not nearly as good as the one I make.
The very next night we went out with a bunch of our “old” RV friends at a tasty restaurant in Marathon called Castaways. This was actually our second time eating here in the past month — with some of the same people. These “old” RV friends are part of a group that we got to know last winter in the southwest. Our RV community seems to always be evolving and growing which is amazing and we’re grateful for every new person we meet. However, it’s really nice that we now have a core group of people who we have spent enough time with to consider our friends as opposed to just acquaintances. Full-time RVing is great for meeting new people, but not always so great for forming true friendships.
Finally, some updates on the Airstream renovation. Despite a few freak-out moments when we thought for sure that we had taken on far too many projects and been far too ambitious with what we could actually accomplish in the time we have, things are moving along nicely. We made some lists, looked at the calendar, and determined that we really can get all this done.
So far we have completed two outside projects that gave both out bumper and wheels a snazzy new look. It looks great and in the process, I even learned some new skills. I can now proudly say that I know how to both remove rivets (huge pain) and install rivets (easy & fun).
We also finished completely emptying out the bedroom in preparation for new vinyl walls and new floating laminate floors. Samples were ordered, decisions were made and the new materials acquired. We even got the first two pieces of vinyl hung on the walls. I won’t tell you how long that took us. Let’s just say that the curved walls in the Airstream may look pretty, but they are very hard to work with. I’ll share lots more details when its all done, but for now here’s a teaser photo of our new wall covering fresh out of the box.
Looks like they Keys aw treating you well. Can’t wait to see the finished renovation. Miss you both!
We miss you too! Hope we can come to VT for a visit next summer/fall.
Kayaking, snorkeling, dolphins…..oh wow, do I ever want to be there!! Next year will be our year again. Looks like you’re having a great time. How convenient to be able to hop in your kayaks right in your backyard. I totally agree with you about hard sided over inflatables. We love our kayak and can’t wait to get back in it. :-)
Next winter will be here before you know it! Having a place to put the kayaks in at the house is great Definitely encourages us to get out more.
I really love the idea of what you all are doing. We so want to spend a winter in the keys, but I think it may just be easier to rent a house. Having to deal with moving the RV every two weeks in the state park system (if we’re even lucky enough to get a spot) or paying an enormous amount of money at a private parking lot just seems nuts. We may shamelessly steal your idea when the time comes. :)
Steal away! The house rentals down here are plentiful, just be sure to reserve far in advance or your choices will be very limited. We’re already thinking about doing something similar next winter in the southwest or Mexico.
Keep us informed on the remodeling project……Dave