I wanted to shake up my life and go sailing (or learn on the job, so-to-speak) so headed to Florida to crew on a catamaran. This is about how it went or, rather, didn't - and my life since. Hopefully it will lead to a catamaran on the clear aqua blue waters of the Caribbean Sea, watching the sunset, a coconut rum and coke in hand. You must START AT THE BEGINNING of the blog, April 2009, to get the whole story...

Sunday, June 14, 2009


It’s Friday and I am back at the Holiday Inn Pool. I no sooner get settled in when Carolyn shows up. “I can’t stay,” she says, “I lost that hat I was wearing at the Islander yesterday and I need to go see if it is there.” “Do you want me to come with you?” I ask. “Sure, if you want to. It’s Alberto's hat and I didn’t tell him,” she says. “He asked me for it this morning and I told him it was in my car but when I went to find it, it wasn’t there. I didn’t tell him. If he knew he would never let me borrow anything of his again.” I am gathering up my things and as soon as I have it all together we walk to her car. “We may as well stay down there for the afternoon.” she says, and I readily agree. I am happy to have another opportunity to go down to Islamorada as it is much prettier than Key Largo.

On the way she makes a stop at a little clothing boutique that often has sales. She wants to check it out today. We spend about half an hour there. I wander around and find a house-wear section in the back. There is some lovely beach themed kitchen and dining goods but the prices make me put them down as fast as I pick them up. It’s shocking. Carolyn puts a couple of skirts and a shirt on hold and then we head over to another store, a huge sporting goods shop on the waterfront. It carries a lot of a popular brand down here, Tommy Bahama, and I take a look through the racks to see if there is anything for Christopher but the prices are out of this world; $35 for a plain t-shirt and over $100 for a short sleeve button down. And there isn’t anything that I think Christopher would wear anyway. I do find a display of Sanuk shoes and one style is on sale for $14.99. This is a steal and I search through them for a size 10 and finally find one. I will buy them for Ashleigh for her birthday next week. They are tan with alternating pink and green stripes; she will love them. Just as I am telling Carolyn what I have scooped, a woman shopping nearby tells me to be sure to buy a size larger than needed as they fit small. I am dismayed as there was no size 11 in this style. Carolyn is just trying a pair on and she is a size 8. She exclaims that she can’t even fit into it. She tries a 9 and they are too tight. I hand her the 10’s very reluctantly and they fit her perfectly. Well they aren’t going to fit Ashleigh then so I let her have them. I am really disappointed as I know she would have been thrilled.

Carolyn pays for the shoes and we walk back out into the sweltering sunshine and drive over the road to The Islander. I find two empty deck chairs where one is in the shade of a palm tree for me; I don’t want to sit in this heat today. Carolyn heads over to the bar to see if they have a lost and found. She soon walks back triumphantly holding the hat high in the air. She is very relieved that she doesn’t have to go back to the sporting goods shop and pay $40 for a new one.

I spy that gorgeous woman from last time we were here and I decide that I am going to talk to her sometime today. But she leaves shortly after we arrive and doesn’t return for the rest of the day.

We spend all day between the pool and the deck chairs, taking half an hour to go over to the bar and split a quesadilla for lunch. It is delicious. Back at the pool I am deep into my book and Carolyn is in the pool when the loud bang of a small explosion somewhere behind me causes everyone to jump and then look around for the source. I can’t see anything amiss in the row of lounge chairs behind me. There are towels draped over two of them and a purse on the ground between them. There is a small table that has a bottle of water on it. Then I notice that an ashtray and a pair of sunglasses are on the ground in front of the table, as though they fell off. I get up and walk over to take a closer look. I see on the towel a small piece of what looks like green glass. I pick it up and it is plastic. I look around and there under the table is the top of a lighter with the straw still attached. The body of the lighter is nowhere to be seen but I am sure I am holding a piece of it in my hand. The heat of the sun has caused the gas to expand and the lighter exploded, I deduce. I put the pieces on the side table along with the sunglasses and the ashtray and go back to my chair. Carolyn is looking at me questioningly and I explain what it was. When the woman returns to her chair a few minutes later, I see her looking at her stuff and can tell she is wondering why it isn’t exactly as she left it so I go over and explain. She is relieved that no one was messing with her things.

All too soon it is time to drive back to Key Largo and we gather up our things and leave. This time I remember to get a picture of the sign on our way out.

Once back at the houseboat I take a quick shower, fighting with the temperature of the water the entire time. I have no idea why, but as soon as I got it just right it went red hot and even when I turned it all the way to cold it didn’t change. I was trying to rinse my hair without getting scalded when it suddenly changed and it was all cold. I quickly fiddled with the controls and it stayed warm for the rest of the shower, thank goodness. I just hate not having a consistent temperature when showering.

As soon as Nancy and Jake get home, she changes and we head out to Sharkey’s for dinner. They have a big barbeque outside that looks like they know what they are doing when it comes to meat and the price is right for their ribs. I ask the bartender if the meat is usually falling-off-the-bone tender and he says it sometimes is and sometimes isn’t. I like it when it is and despite the ambiguous answer, I decide to give them a try. I have a choice of garlic mashed potatoes or fries; mashed it is – no more fried food! When it comes, they aren't as tender as Earl’s ribs but they're pretty good and I enjoy the meal. Tonight, instead of going to The Big Chill after dinner it is decided by Jake that I need to see a new place called Snooks. When we get there, the place reminds me so much of the BVI that I fall in love with it instantly. It is a rustic bar overlooking the water and the sun is just setting so all is cast in that magical shade of lavender and pink. There is a live band playing and small white lights are strung up over the bar, which is a large ‘L shape with the short lower part facing the shelf of drinks and the long upper part looking out over the water. All those seats are taken but we settle into seats right in the corner so that we still have a view. Jake and Nancy order a beer and I ask how much a glass of house wine is and the guy tells me $4.50. Just as soon as I say “Great, I will have a glass…” a woman bartender corrects him and says $6. He apologizes, telling me he is new. I don’t want to pay that much but I go ahead and order a glass of Pinot Grigio. We sit there sipping our drinks and enjoying the music and the view. Jake tells me that they used to live just around the corner, right on the water and tells me a story of when he had his two girls and a couple of their cousins out on the water in a small boat and suddenly a tornado appeared out of nowhere. He was blown to the rocks and he tossed one of the kids onto the shore, but before he could grab anymore, the boat was blown back out in to the ocean. He managed to wrestle it closer to shore and Nancy had waded out into the water and managed to hang onto the boat and keep it from crashing onto the rocks until the storm passed. Honestly, these guys need to write a book.

When it comes time to settling the bill, I have been charged $8 for my glass of wine. I complain to the woman who said earlier that it was $6 and she takes a look at the bill. She tells me that they don’t have a house Pinot Grigio. I remind her that I had specifically asked how much a glass of house was and then ordered and if there wasn’t a house of what I ordered, that would have been the time to tell me. She shrugs as she moves away and says that the guy is new and didn’t know. I am really annoyed and am explaining to Nancy as she couldn't hear over the music. The woman overhears me and says, ‘Fine! Just take the two bucks off then.” She sounds more annoyed than I feel and I am appalled at the attitude. I really like this place but I wouldn’t come back if I lived here.

Jake has informed me that, tomorrow, I am to go out on Bob’s boat and go snorkeling. Nancy talks Jake into going along as well. When I get home I get all my gear together. I am excited about finally getting this opportunity. And I can’t wait to try out my brand new prescription mask.

I am up at 6:30 as we are supposed to leave at 7. Last night Jake said he wanted to drop Nancy off at work and then we would continue on to Ocean Reef, an exclusive gated community up the island. It turns out that was drunken babble. Now he scorns that and says we will leave at 7:45. I could have slept another 45 minutes.

When we finally get going, he regales me with descriptions of this gated community we are driving to. Apparently it is known as “the place billionaires go to get away from millionaires.” It has its own police and fire departments as well as shops and airport. It has two golf courses and a huge marina. When we get there, we have to go through a security gate but we are following Bob and he has cleared us to go right through. We are given something to put on the dashboard and the gate lifts.

We have to go into the dive shop first to sign a waver. There will be just three other people with us for the morning, a mother and her two teen sons, and when we walk over to the boat I see that it is a huge pontoon style boat that would easily hold 35. As we slowly glide out of the marina on water that is as smooth as glass, we pass several large yachts. I am informed by Bob that, the season being over, there isn’t the usual display of massive vessels that would dwarf the ones I am looking at now. Bob is about 60 – 65 and has the typical big beer belly that all retired guys around here sport. Not that he is retired, or he wouldn’t be the captain of this boat. I mention his size and age because it will be important information to have in a few days.

As we head out into the open sea, the water is a bit choppy and I wonder what kind of current we will be swimming in. When I was in Mexico I went snorkeling on a reef in the Caribbean Sea where the current was so strong, I was exhausted after 15 minutes. I am hoping I won’t have a repeat here.

It takes us half an hour to reach the reef and once we are tied to a buoy, we gear up and jump in. The other three go off the front but Bob tells me to go off the ladder at the side as it is easier and I do. I am no sooner floating when I look down and see a huge stingray slowly swim right beneath me. I follow him as he gracefully skims the sand. He stops and settles in and then blows the sand in front of him to uncover food. I stop to watch and realize that there is hardly any current here at all as I am moving very slowly away and it doesn’t take much effort at all to keep stationary. My mask is fantastic. I can see everything as clear as a bell. I watch the ray for a few more minutes and then when he swims off in one direction, I go in another to where the other three are. There are more fish here than I saw in the BVI. I prefer to swim along side the big reef as it is very shallow in places and I fear rubbing up against it. And there are lots of small clumps of coral that has plenty of life around it. I watch, amused, as a yellow and black Sergeant Major darts at any fish that comes too close to his clump of coral. As I swim over he darts at me but stops halfway and goes back. I guess my size intimidates him as he tries over and over to scare me away without getting too close. I swim on and see lots of Parrot Fish and Blue Head. At one point I look down just in time to see a mean looking Barracuda glide by. He was only about three feet long; apparently they can get as big as 6 or 7 feet.

All too soon, it seems, I am tiring and I swim back to the boat to find out that I have been in the water for an hour. It feels like 20 minutes. We let go of the buoy and head over to the lighthouse. Apparently there is usually a large school of Tarpon swimming beneath it and we are going to see if they are there today. I had decided I was done for the day but once we are tied up I change my mind. I can’t pass up this opportunity so gear up and get back in the water. Am I ever glad I did. The amount of sea life here is many multiple times that what we just left. I see a school of Midnight Parrot Fish, one over a foot long. As I swim towards the lighthouse I come across a fish that has strange antler looking things on its head. As I float above it, trying to make it out, it turns away from me and suddenly the antlers come together in a smooth point and I realize it is a squid. I swim around him and he follows me, and it seems to me he never takes his eyes off of me. I swim away a bit and he follows. He is so cute I want to laugh, but that’s hard to do with a snorkel in one’s mouth. I swim on and look back but he has lost interest and is moving back to his lump of coral. I never see any Tarpon. I don’t really know what they look like, but I know that everything I am looking at isn’t Tarpon. When we get back to the boat the mom, who has snorkeled this area a lot and really knows her fish, tells Bob that there were no Tarpon there today. Too bad. I really wanted to see them.

On the way back to shore, the deck hand points out turtles in the water. I can’t see them. I ask him how he is spotting them and he tells me to look for their heads poking out of the water and then a swirl as they dive under. I strain my eyes looking but can’t see a thing. He keeps pointing them out and I look just in time to miss. But then he points to one directly in front of the boat and says we will go right over it. I manage to see it just before we do. Apparently it is mating season and this area is full of them. I wish we could have snorkeled here. That would have been something to see!

I stop into a couple of the little shops near the marina to see if I can find a T-shirt for Christopher that has a nice ‘Ocean Reef Marina’ logo. I find one I really like for $20 and when I go to pay for it, they don’t take cash! Just credit card or charge to your room card. I guess there is a hotel here somewhere about but I haven’t seen it. I leave without the shirt.

When we get back home I make a sandwich and then Jake drops me off at the Holiday Inn. It’s another scorching hot day and the pool is starting to get so warm that it isn’t refreshing anymore. It’s as warm as a bath. Nevertheless, it’s better than no pool at all and I get in and swim around. Soon the couple who live aboard their boat, Phillipe and Terri, show up and we stand around in the water and chat. Soon another two guys join us. I have seen them here almost every afternoon and Phillipe introduces me to them. I thought they were father and son, the older looking my age and the younger about 30. Turns out they are friends and the younger one is 45. I am shocked as he looks so young. I don’t say this until the guys have swam off. Phillipe laughs and says he will wait until I have gone home next week but then he is going to tell them but change the story a bit. I look puzzled and he says “I have been telling them it is time they stopped spending so much time together, people are getting the wrong idea.” I realize he is going to tell them I thought they were a gay couple. “You better make sure you wait until I leave.” I say. He laughs. When they swim back over to us a bit later on, I watch Phillipe and I can see from the look on his face he has a moment where he is considering saying it now but then changes his mind. After the guys leave I say as much and he laughs at me and I know I was right.

Peter is at the pool and we talk a bit and he tells me that a woman he met a week or so ago in Miami is coming down to see him for the weekend. I remember when he told me about her. He said he had met “an ugly fox at Coyote Ugly and that the sex was fantastic”; way more information than I needed to know and I told him as much. I also wondered, at the time, if I had heard him correctly. Did he really call her an ugly fox or was he mixing up his words with the name of the bar? I didn’t want to ask, so I wasn’t sure. At some point while I am talking to Phillipe and Terri the woman arrives and Peter gets out of the pool. I look up and see her walking towards him and watch as they embrace. I am far enough away that I can’t make out her features, it doesn’t help that I am wearing my old prescription sunglasses that I don’t want to replace because I paid a fortune for them but the prescription is not strong enough any more. She has a great figure though. Huge boobs barely constrained in a low-cut black tank top that turns out to be a bathing suit under jean shorts. They sit at the bar for a while and then decide to come in for a swim. She strips off her shorts and when they come into the pool I can see that he wasn’t mixing up his words when he described her. She looks to be about 60 or more with leathery wrinkled skin from being perpetually tanned. She has long wavy hair that has blond highlights. But she is not pretty, not by any stretch. He totally ignores me as if he has never met me. Whatever.

When Carolyn shows up about two hours later, she comments on the woman’s looks and says that Peter didn’t even acknowledge her. I tell her, “Same here.”

That night when I get home, we have dinner and after I clean up I see Nancy is putting on makeup. “Are you going out?” I ask. She says yes and asks if I am coming. I ask where they are going and she says The Big Chill. I don’t want to go there at all; why would I want to risk a repeat of last week? So I say I don’t want to come and will just stay home. They leave and I watch a Hallmark channel movie with Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen about dead people. It wasn't as bad as it sounds, and it's the first movie with Mary in that I have seen since I worked with her a couple of years ago so it's nice to watch now that I know what a lovely person she truly is.

The next day I hang around the boat with Jake while Nancy is gone but she comes home early and we head out to Gilberts. It’s a huge bar and restaurant, all outdoors on the waterfront just across the bridge from the property. I had heard music from there a couple of Sundays ago when I was sitting on the barge at the property and they told me it was a great place to go. There is a live band playing and they are good but very loud so we find seats in the shade away from the stage right next to the water. Almost as soon as we are settled a small coconut falls from the tree above me and misses me by about two feet. If that had hit me on the head it would have hurt like stink, but not killed me as it wasn’t full size. Jake finds it too hot and goes to look for seats under the Tiki roof at the bar where there are huge fans blowing. He finds three and we move over into full shade but now we are right in front of the stage. It’s very loud. We have to yell to talk.

Eventually Nancy and I order some lunch; chicken strips and a Ceasar salad to share. It's delicious. Jake makes fun of us for paying for 'grass' - the salad. We stay for about two hours in all and then leave because the sky has darkened and a storm is threatening. Once home, I work on my blog for a while and then join Jake and Nancy to watch a DVD she ordered from Netflix. It's an old British comedy show called 'Fools and Horses'. It's alright but after three episodes, I have had my fill and go to bed.

It’s Monday morning and yesterday, at Gilberts, I asked Nancy if she would mind if I went into work with her and then take her truck for the morning. I said I hated to ask but I had some errands to do before I leave. She says that is fine. I am dressed and have my door open a bit and I hear Jake and Nancy talking. I suddenly hear him hiss, “…it pisses me off that she EXPECTS it.” I immediately realize that he is talking about me using the truck. I hear Nancy say, “No she doesn’t. She asked if I would mind.” I don’t hear him reply. I want to go get Nancy a thank-you present and see if I can find something for Christopher before I leave. I also need more mineral water and we are out of bread. I wouldn’t DARE assume or ‘expect’ that I can just use their vehicles after the time I said I would like to take the truck to Sharkey’s in the evening to Skype Shonah. If I did, I would have driven off in his car the other day when he drove off in the truck without telling me and left me in the boatyard all day, thus I asked Nancy if she would mind. I don’t understand how one day he makes it sound like it is a given that I will take a vehicle and then others, it’s a problem.

When it is time to go, I realize that Jake is going with us as we left his car at the Pet Resort yesterday and my heart sinks. I feel like I can’t get away from him. We drop him off at his car and then keep going to the property to feed the cats. When we turn down the road it’s on, there is a white peacock in the middle of the road. I don’t know if I have mentioned it yet, but there is a house on that road that has loads of them. One day the girl who bartends at Sharkey’s was driving down the road at about 5 miles an hour, to see the puppies, and one of the peacocks ran under her back wheels and she killed it. Apparently she cried the rest of the day. Anyway, this peacock is amazing. His tail is fully open and I haven’t seen anything like it before. Nancy stops the truck as it isn’t getting out of the way and I take out my camera and snap some pictures of it.

When we stop at a closed-down gas station to feed the cat that the owners used to have there but abandoned when they left, Nancy calls me to come out of the truck to see something. I get out into the already warm air, and walk over to her. She points to a dish of water that has gone a bit green and sitting in it is the biggest frog I have ever seen. She tells me that it is poisonous to dogs. She had one in the Pet Resort yard once and a dog bit it and the frog excreted a venom out of its cheeks into the dogs mouth. She knew what had happened as soon as she saw the dog foaming at the mouth. She hosed its mouth out and then took it to the vet straight away and it didn’t die. She said she has them all over the property. They burrow deep holes under the concrete slab and come out at night. Ugh.

When we get to her shop, there is nowhere to park as the county is digging a big trench right in front of her place to put in sewer lines. We pull off to the side and she isn’t happy about her customers not having anywhere to park.

I spend a couple of hours on the computer, killing time until the stores open. I don’t want to go back to the houseboat. As soon as it is 9:30 I leave and go to the gift store that I like on the highway. It has the best stuff of any place around and their prices are some of the best as well. I saw one of those fabric cutout things that has a whirly gig on top. I don’t know what they are called. But it is of a dog lounging in an Adirondack chair with a beer. The whirly thing looks like a sun umbrella above its head. I think it is perfect for the Pet Resort’s front yard and a perfect ‘thank-you’ present for Nancy. Fortunately, I have found some money in my wallet that I totally forgot I folded up and tucked away so I am not as strapped for cash as I thought I was.

I leave there and head for Bealls, a discount store kind of like Ross and look for a T-shirt for Christopher and can’t find one I like. I look through the cotton shirts but they only have about 5 in a size small, his size. I see a medium one I really like and think he would too but he would swim in it. I decide I am done looking for a shirt for him and will just buy him a box of the coconut chocolate candy that everyone sells around here. It’s a product of Florida and it will just have to do. Guys are just too hard to buy for and Christopher is particularly picky. I have bought the same thing for Rob as the only shirt I found that I thought he would like didn’t have his size either. I tried. I did find a lovely little sundress for Izzy for her birthday, which is today. I hope it fits and that she likes it. She is so tiny.

After I pick up that and the other bits I need at the grocery store, I drive back to Nancy’s to see if she needs anything and give her the whirly gig thing. She loves it. She doesn't need anything nor my help at the shop as it's slow again, so I take off.

I drive to the boat praying that Jake has left already. He wanted to go up to the property to put the cement blocks in the water that he is going to tie boeys to. I know he will do that in the morning as he will want to be at Sharkey’s all afternoon as usual. As I pull into the yard I see that his car is gone. Thank you. I get inside and make a sandwich and just as I sit down to eat it, I see Jake’s car pulling into the boat yard. Dang. He doesn’t even say hello when he gets on board so I ask him if he managed ok with the cement blocks. He says he did fine despite a sore elbow.

I had noticed that one of his elbows is really knobby, almost like there is a golf ball right at the joint. It turns out that it just swelled up one day, really big, and when it went down that bump was left behind. He says the bump is like a ball of gristle. That was about two years ago and the doctor had no idea what was going on. Now the other elbow is going the same way, although he says it isn’t half the size the other one was when it swelled. He says it is really painful and he couldn’t sleep last night. It looks very tender.

He says he is heading off to Sharkey’s and is going to take the truck so if I want to go to the pool I should get my things. I do and we leave. Carolyn isn’t at the pool today, she is with a friend all day. I spend a quiet day reading and bouncing between the pool and the lounge chair until Nancy arrives and calls over the fence for me to go. When I get in the truck they tell me that tomorrow is the big day. The boat will be going in the water. I am glad that I will get to be on it for the 6 hour trip around the island to the property. It seems such a crime to be in Florida and not get out on the water so I am excited.

After I clean up from dinner, I decide to start to pack up my things so I get my bags from the storage bedroom down below. I try to divide up the heavy stuff between both bags to keep them under 50 lbs each but once they are full and I weigh them, they are both overweight. And I don’t even have everything in them yet. I have no idea how this is happening. I am going back with less stuff. I ate most of my vitamins, used a lot of body lotion – I am not even taking the half used bottle back with me, I am leaving behind some clothes I don’t want along with the 8 books I have read since getting here, which kills me. I ponder this problem as I go to bed. How am I going to make this work?

OH! I almost forgot. After dinner I hear my phone beeping and so I go check and there is a message from the agent who has my script to call him back. I do and he tells me that it came back from coverage with ‘no rewrites needed’ and he has read the script now and loves it. He sees it as a Hallmark production, as do I. He says I should hear from him within two weeks and if not, to give him a call. I can hardly believe that I might have a script of MINE go to camera. It’s so exciting.

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