We don't spend much time planning vacations for a typical couple in their early 60's and this last one definitely wasn't planned.
My good friend and hunting buddy is married to one of her college (Purdue) roommates. After all these years they are one couple we always kept in touch with and our lives have many parallels. We share many interests and get along perfectly when it comes to family, politics, religion and other issues that create friction. They have been married for 38 years and it's been 40 for us almost to the day we departed. It was hard to refuse their invitation.
They had purchased a 36' boat, 40' of dock space on a canal with an adjoining land mass large enough to park an RV. He calls it a Dockuminium. The two of them would sleep in the RV while we spent nights on the boat in bunks. This trip was planned a few short months ago and we jumped on the opportunity for three days and four nights in Key Largo with a travel day on either end the first week of March.
Tuesday night we flew out of Chicago and landed in Miami at 10pm eastern time. An hour later we were sitting under their private tiki roof shelter next to the RV having cocktails plotting the next few days of activity. It was hard to know where we were in the dark but the gated community was located halfway between Florida City and the City of Key Largo in a remote location on Manatee Bay. The late night air was warm and humid, on the mid 70's. We drove through a snowstorm on the way to the airport earlier that day.
When we woke up the next morning it was everything I expected, we were on a tropical camping trip with few luxuries. This isn't a resort but the shower huts and pool were first rate. There were everglades to the north and west, expansive brackish shallow flats with mangrove islands to the south and east and blue water reefs not far away to the southwest. After a and breakfast and quick tour of the land properties he steered a small skiff through the canals where other boats were parked on similar arrangements. Out on the open water it was calm and he told us to keep an eye out for dolphins. It wasn't long before we spotted a large pod of dolphins breaking the surface.
Motoring along slowly these dolphins seemed as interested in us as we were of them. They came closer until they were rolling in pairs under the boat in 3' of water. A few were enticed closer by outstretched hands but never close enough to touch. A fish this large swimming next to the small 16' boat impressed me greatly but these fish never seemed threatening. There were smaller ones mixed in too. None of them jumped into the air but they did give us a show by breaking the surface high enough to see the entire profiles. Photos were not easy to take because they were hard to track between their rapid pace, the glare on my iPhone and the dark color of the water but I managed to get a decent few images.
We motored past and in-between the large mangrove islands (for lack of a better term) He pointed to anchored boats nearby and explained many of them were occupied by people "living on the hook" referring to the anchor. They are boat people who are not only "on the hook" but "off the grid" as well. Many of them own no property choosing instead to live on their watercraft some of which were quite large. When they require groceries, beer or to dump the septic tank they head for a port, rent dock space for a night. They is news to me and I like the idea. Until a hurricane takes aim for the southern peninsula.
The bugs weren't as bad as he had described and we saw only small lizards, no snakes, gators or crocs. For diner that first day we drove into Key Largo City for a seafood dinner at an off the main road local shack. The food was very good and affordable. It was quite pleasant on the screened-in area far away enough form the Jimmy Buffet style entertainer performing at the bar inside.
My only request on this trip was simple - NO Jimmy Buffet or Bob Marley music, please. All present enthusiastically agreed.
This real estate company did a better video job of portraying the property than I could.