Thursday, January 31, 2013

Day of the Iguana

This young 12 year old catches the Iguanas around the Marina  to have a companion for the day. This baby one is the youngest we have seen so far.

We see them all over now but these guys were down by the 7  mile bridge trail.

I wonder if he is a Guard Iguana

Day of the Iguana

Some say there are at least three species of Iguanas in the Florida Keys, maybe more but "The species was first officially described by Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus in 1758.[2] In the two centuries since then, numerous subspecies have been identified, but later classified as merely regional variants of the same species.[2] (Wikipedia)" I know there are several colors for sure. Some locals here believe that the colors change as they age but wiki says: "Despite their name, Green Iguanas can come in different colors. In southern countries of their range, such as Peru, green iguanas appear bluish in color with bold black markings.[13] On islands such as BonaireCuraçaoAruba, and Grenada, a Green Iguana's color may range from green to lavender, black, and even pink.[5][13]" All I know is that they come in really cool colors.

 The Green Iguana Society:   States: 

"The Problem: The term “feral” is used to describe animals that used to belong to someone
 as pets or livestock, but now live on their own as wild animals. Feral iguanas are common
 in some parts of southern Florida. To be more precise, the wild green iguanas in Florida are
 a mix of former pets and the offspring of these animals. Green iguanas are generally thought
 not to be native to the United States. This places wild green iguanas in the category of “invasive” or “exotic” species -- "

Please check out and read the whole page:

To us the Iguanas are awesome to look at and watch. They seem pretty passive and do not harm anyone but not everyone feels the same: Read this:

It took us a while to spot one but now we see them all the time. Lots of locals keep them for pets and they are just as much a part of their family as a dog is to some. One local we talked to on the bus coming back from Key West said he has a friend with a Pet Iguana and the thing is 5' long (they can get up to 6 feet long). The Iguana has it's own little door to come and go to/from the house as he pleases like a doggy door. The Iguana likes to sleep on the owners chest and they often sleep together that way. He said the Iguana is like his child. 
Others like how they Taste. I asked them if they made Tacos out of them? He said no but they make a fine stew and other culinary delights and at least one road side Stand has Iguana on the Menu. So if you would like to come and hunt some for lunch read this:
And here is a recipe at the end of this article if you do not want to BBQ them:
They say the small ones taste the best! The Florida Wildlife Commission invited all the chefs from the Keys to attend a meeting on creating recipes for Iguana and to include them on their restaurant menus. They did the same thing to try and help manage the invasive Lion fish and all the chefs showed up, but not one chefs showed up for the Iguana meeting!  I guarantee you that if we had all these Iguanas in Texas they would be in the Tacos!
The Iguanas flourish in the warm climate here but the North winds can  blow down here occasionally and when it does get cool the Iguanas start dropping out of the trees as they gointo a hibernation state. The local on the bus said a friend brought over a two dead Iguanas he found in the road. He said they are Heavy. I told him they were not dead so he put a blanket on them and warmed them up and soon they woke up and crawled away. He also told us that they will dive into the water from high up in the trees and swim away. A Intern at the Key Deer national Preserve told us that one came by him when he was Kayaking and he tried to paddel as fast as he could (and he was a very fit 20 something) and the Iguana was just to FAST! The Admiral was over at the Pavilion near the City Marina here just yesterday for Yoga and she heard a big CLUMP right by here so she looked over and a Iguana had just fell from the tree above her. The Iguana looked at her then scurried away.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Indian Key and Lignumvitae Key State Parks

Robbies has a Monopoly, this is the only paid ride to Indian Key and Lignumvitae Key State Parks, you can go in your own boat or Kayak though.

Just part of Robbies

Kevin in Corpus once told us "No Bananas on the Boat!

Our Tour Guide was also a Boat Captain in Training

Indian Key

You can Kayak out here but watch out for the winds and Current!

All these Keys are Coral Rock

Indian Key has a much Storied past but the most talked about is that of  Jacob Houseman who challenged the Key West monopoly on ship wreaking. He set up shop here on Indian Key where he profited handsomely only to be ousted by pissed off Indians 8 years later. 

A old Cistern for collecting rain water

The streets are still in place but since all the structures were burned by the indians , the island  has overgrown with vegitation.

Jacob had a two story house with a look out area where he could scan the horizon for ship wrecks.

The view from a look out tower built by the park.

The ruins of the old warehouse where he stored his ship wrecked goods.

The old Town square, about 50 people lived on the Island year round during Jacobs days but that does not include the undocumented slaves. 

Ready to get back on the boat to go to Lignumvitae Key

Lignumvitae Key

You walk up this boardwalk to a big two story home where the tour begins, no one is allowed on this key unless there is a Park Ranger present since some have poached some rare snails and plants from here. 

Robbies has unusual Brew to wind down after a  long day touring Historic Keys. 

Robbies has all these old fishing chairs taken from Sportfisherman boats, excellant to see the view and watch the action of the tourist feeding the Tarpon and trying to shoo away the competing pelicans

The Tarpon just line up waiting  for the next tourist to toss them a  snack.

Plenty of pelicans hang out on the dock to steel the bait fish from  the hands of the tourist. 

This Egrete just helped himself to some of the frozen bait fish.

So did this Pelican

Notice his throat? He has to wait for his Popsicle fish to thaw a bit before he chocks it down! I bet  he has a cold headache!
Indian Key and Lignumvitae Key State Parks

The Admiral is always on the Net looking for the next thing to explore in the Keys. She read about Indian and Lignumvitae Key State Parks. You can go to these parks on your own by boat but If you pay the $40 per person you get a ride out on a power catamaran and a guided Tour. We like tours since if you go on your own you have no Idea what your looking at. Besides if a Burmese Python dropped on your head there would be help to get it off. So we got up early to make the 0800 departure time at Robbies of Islamaorada: Robbies is a very interesting place just on it's on. You would have thought this was a scene from the 1st episode of Gilligan's Island. While waiting to board the "Happy Cat" we perused around Robbies checking out the funky Marina, restaurant, sport fishing  Tarpon Feeding, Kayaking, snorkeling, diving, PLACE.
Once aboard the Happy Cat a very Florida Keys looking Captain released the lines as the young Roxanne traing to be a Captain took the helm and motored us the 3/4 mile to Indian Key on the Atlantic side. Roxanne was also our tour guide. There is a lot of History surrounding Indian Key but the tour centers on Jacob Housman's period when he bought the Island in 1831 to start his own shipwrecking business. .Short Story is 8 years later he had sufficiently pissed off the regions Indians so they came and burned his Paradise to the ground see it all at So the tour centers on his 8 years on Indian Key and the ruins the remain on the Island. This tour definitely gets high points and gives insight to present day Key Life.
Roxanne took the Helm and we were off to Lignumvitae Key. Totally different story here. This excerpt is from the Florida Parks website: "The virgin tropical hardwood hammock that thrives on this island was once common on most of Florida's Upper Keys; most of these forests have been lost to development on other islands. In 1919, William J. Matheson, a wealthy Miami chemist, bought this tiny island and built a caretaker's home with a windmill for electricity and a cistern for rainwater. (this home has withstood all the Hurricanes) Today, his hideaway is the visitor center for this island forest. Ranger-guided tours are given twice daily, Friday through Sunday. " 
Lignumvitae is a hard wood. In fact is one of the Hardest. It is used as a bearing for really big ships propeller shafts. John Furlinger (He was a commercial ship engineer) told me about this wood on our sail down from Tampa.  The wood is dense and has a resin that it excretes as it heats up lubricating the shaft naturally. I wish I had a piece. The tour here is done by a Park Ranger since Poaching is an issue in the Keys and there are some really rare Lignumvitae Key Snails that are protected. He told us a story of another Key that had a rare snail and some due came in and poached a bunch of the snails then set the whole island on Fire so that he would have them to himself. Wow, think about that for a few nanoseconds. If he ever shows anyone his fine collection or sells one then he is Done! The tour centers on the incredible Hammock and all it's vegetation since it has been virtually untouched except by storms for centuries. Very cool tour and one thing you lean more about is the poison wood, kind of like poison Ivy but worse and there is no way to distinguish it from all the rest of the vegetation in the Keys (at least to us), at least Poison Ivy has a distinct three leaf group and shape:
The Boat Captain took the Helm and returned us to Robbies where things had changed since the early AM, there were lots of people doing all the assorted things to do there. I found a mighty fine beer and kicked back  in a super comfortable fish fighting chair, the kind you see on the back on sport fisherman  It had a great few of the marina and especially the area where visitors go to feed the Tarpon. You can buy a bucket of thawed out bait fish and go out and feed the throngs of Tarpon lined up waiting for the next free handout. But the Pelicans compete for this bounty so there is a guy with a big noodle on the end of a pole who slaps the water to shoo away the pelicans so the people can feed the Tarpon and not the Pelicans. there are some really smart pelicans and they tune this show into a great circus. I advise coming here just to drink a beer and watch the show.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Solar Panels Phase I

On the Way to get the Little Truck That Can in our rent car we traveled on Hwy. 41 that runs through the Everglades,  This Canal runs the length of the road almost all the way to Naples, there was tons of wildlife all along the way. 

We had to get out and take some pics, This Stork was accompanied by tons more, 

You absolutely can not believe the number of alligators! They were everywhere.

After we got the truck the next day we stopped in Miami to buy the  Solar Panels at Sun Electric. 

Got em loaded up and headed back to Marathon

Gotta Stop at Mrs. Mac's Kitchen in Key Largo

Dolphin (Mahi Mahi) on the top, Crab Salad on the bottom.

Key's Welding welded up a frame for the solar Panels cheaper than  I could have bought the Material and  bolted it together.

Loaded up the frame and balanced it on the dingy to get it back out to the boat

Here is the preliminary stages of attaching the frame to the davits and the stern pulpit. Notice how it extends  about 2'  aft of the Davits?....That had to change. 

Panels installed on top, still hanging 2' beyond the davits.

Here is the finished product with lots of  bracing and the whole thing shifted about two feet forward.

U-bolts fasten supports to the davits. 

Two of these round tubing supports were added to provide strength so that the davits would not have to support so much weight.
Solar Panel Project Phase I

Once I made the decision to add solar panels to Wand'rin Star I knew we would have to go back and get the Little Truck That Can. I would definitely be running around getting all necessary parts to construct a frame and then get the stuff to wire it in. We rented a car at the Marathon airport and took off early to Tampa. We decided to take the Hwy 41 route so we could see a bit of the Florida Everglades along the way. Soon after getting on 41 there was a canal running alongside the Hwy. I think a lot of this was to divert water to neighboring farms for the massive agriculture in South Florida. Anyway we started seeing all sorts of wildlife and Hundreds of alligators We made 3-4 stops along the way and got out to take pics.  Loads of fish, Florida Gars, Bluegill, Walking catfish and tons more species, Birds everywhere. The only thing we did not see was a Panther. But there were Panther Crossings posted along the way. We knew we would be coming back to spend a day in the Everglades later on for sure.

We got to Tampa around 1700 hrs and quickly started making a few stores for things we wanted to bring back. We finished up at Wold Foods and the truck was loaded with new provisions. We drove back to Ft. Myers and found a Hotel for the night then got up early and headed for Miami to buy the panels at Sun electric. Sun Electric is easy to find and Manny Rodriquez hooked us up with two REC Peak Energy (PE) Series Modules 245Watt Black Frame. and PV output-MC4 Male/Female 50' cable They boxed it all up and we loaded it up and took off for Marathon.

The Admiral was ready for food, our route back missed the Vegetable Stands near Homestead Florida so she spotted Mrs. Macs Kitchen and had me turn around, glad we did, evidently it is a favorite of tourist and locals alike in Key Largo:  She had the Dolphin which is cheap and everywhere in the Keys and I had the Crab Salad, recommend both!

Once I have a boat project like this I get single focused and the Admiral knows I have to put all my attention on the project. After checking out the angled aluminum available at the local home depot I decided that it would be best to have a welder weld the frame that the panels would be bolted to. I asked the Cruisers Net where to find a good welder in Marathon and out of the 5 suggestions Key's Welding got 3 votes. Not only did he do it cheaper than if I bought the material myself and bolted it together, he used heavier material and had it finished in two days! Les than $200, a deal. After that I bought some angled aluminum to construct the supports. I watched how SALT (Sea and Land Technology) installed panels on davits here in Marathon and basically copied their methods. At first I had the whole frame about 22" aft of the dingy davits to limit any shading from other nearby structures on the boat. But after sleeping on it for a while I decided that it would be best to have move it as far forward as possible to increase the stability. Fortunately I was able to move it exactly even with the davits, it clears the Back Stay by about an inch!.I added a couple of 1" SS tubing supports to take as much of the weight off the Davits as possible and let the Stern Pulpit take the load. I am pretty sure it can take a good storm now without problem.

The Materials list for the project includes:
1 65" X 79" welded aluminum fram made from 1-1/2" angled aluminum
2 X 1-1/2" X 8' angled aluminum for supports
1 X 3'X1-1/2" angled aluminum
2 X 1" x 8' ss tubing with 4 end caps, and 4 bimini type attachments
46 X 1-1/4' X 1/4" bolts
12 X 1/4" SS U-Bolts
70 X SS 1/4" flat washers
70 X SS 1/4" lock washers
140 X SS 1/4" nuts
The above does not include the less than 20 nuts and washers, or the 7/16" combination wench that Neptune claimed for working over his Sea. I often had to hang off the stern holding on by one hand while drilling or fastening the bolts together, I did not lose the Drill! I am glad to have this part completed as I look forward to the wiring phase of the project. Should receive the Outback Flex 60 MPPT charge controller in a couple of days:

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Gilligan's Island

Gilligan's Island as seen from Sombrero Beech
Gilligan's Island AKA West Sister Rock

Bobby the Viking Leader heading down Sister Creek

Dingy East out of Sister Creek through the Channel, very shallow on either side.

Approaching Gilligan's Island

The Adventurous head out into the Pacific with 15-20 knot winds and   2-3 foot seas.

Little Sweet engine, don't fail me Now!

It Get's shallow so you have to get out and tow the dingy in the last 50 yards.

Land FallI

A great place to clean the dingy bottom, But Wait, The Tide has Gone out!

The Chart name for Gilligan's is West Sister Rock, It is a Huge Low lying Coral Rock that would be impossible to see at night.  

Viking Bobby and his girl Friend have adopted Gilligan's Island as their  community Project. They are restoring the vegitation at the highest point of the island where a bit of sand collects. 

This is the Garden

Here is our contribution, a succulent that the lady at the local Home Depot said would be perfect for  Gilligan's Island. 

OH My What is this?

Yep, you can just pick them right up, they will not harm you. 

Also, If you know how to do it you can pick up a Sea Urchin, ( I wouldn't but he did)  Never step on one, very painful!
Gilligan's Island

 This big Coral Rock just East of the Sister Creek channel Entrance to Boot Key Harbor has been named Gilligan's Island by the locals in Marathon. Bobby the Viking has adopted this mighty fine rock as his community project. Each week he announces on the Net that there will be a gathering on Saturday around noon at Gilligan's Island and to bring your grill, food, etc. and especially bring a plant for the island. We decided we wanted to contribute a plant so the Admiral checked out what was available at the local Home Depot Garden Center and the lady there suggested two or three different types of succulent that could survive the environment.the Admiral showed me what would they had and I choose the one with some color. It had little red blooms and I thought it should spruce up any rock!.
Most of Gilligan's Island is barren coral rock so it would be difficult to plant anything to close to the water but in the center, the highest point a fair amount of sand has collected since the last storm through here. So I enlisted Bobby's girl friend to help me pick out a spot to plant the little Gem. They were thrilled and she even went out to their Viking ship to get some water to make sure the little plant would get a good start. The Boot Key Harbor cruisers have a Facebook page and I noticed yesterday that someone posted a picture of the plant, it appears to have grown some and all the red blooms are still there!