The joy of Christmas, primarily the celebration of the the birth of our Lord, is surely much sweeter when you are with family and friends. Even though we were further from home than usual this year, our family was able to travel to the Florida Keys to spend the holidays with us. Our son, Sam, flew into Ft. Meyers a week before Christmas and cruised around the tip of Florida, through the Everglades, and up to Key Largo, where our daughter, her husband and our two grandchildren met us for Christmas week. Christmas morning on the boat was a new and memorable experience. Gifts were limited to what could fit in stockings, so it was fun to see them strung up on heavy cord across the ceiling of the salon. We listened to our six-year old grand-daughter quote the Christmas story from the book of Luke, sang, and had a ball opening presents, producing quite a mess of paper and bows all over our little living space. The grandchildren were given the gift of swimming with the dolphins (a 3-generation family tradition) at the Dolphin Research Center in Grassy Key. We all looked forward to that event scheduled for the following day.

We all were given the gift of beautiful weather during Christmas week, with lots of sun and temperatures in the mid-70’s and 80’s. We had the opportunity to take the Estrellita out to Molasses Reef which is a great diving location about 6 miles off-shore on the Atlantic side of Key largo. Snorkeling, fishing, swimming and sunning is how we spent these glorious days with the family. Enjoying some great waterside dining and island-style entertainment was a treat in the evenings.

When the family left us a few days after Christmas, our good friends Jo and Boogie Tudor flew down from Beaufort, SC to join us for a week. They had already visited us twice since we started the Loop, so the boat routine was second nature to them. We had a wonderful New Years anchored just off Lorelei’s Restaurant in Islamorada, known for gorgeous sunsets. We fell a little short of staying up to see the new year start, until the fireworks started over our anchorage at mid-night. We all got up to enjoy one of the most fantastic fireworks shows we have ever seen. We pulled anchor the next morning and headed to Marathon, one of the popular cruiser hangouts for snowbirds from the north. After some memorable days with Jo and Boogie, we are now on our own again and will probably spend a few weeks in Marathon before we get the itch to pull the anchor and make a move. Our latitude may not change much….this January weather is hard to beat!