1 April, 2019
We’ve been at the Tarpon Basin anchorage in Key Largo for about 3 weeks now and haven’t felt any strong urge to move on. The anchorage is quiet (though it gets pretty busy with powerboaters on weekends) and is well protected from all sides; we have ridden out a couple of strong blows without feeling the least bit uncomfortable.
On one of our first days there, Cindy and I dinghied ashore and walked down along the highway half a mile to have lunch at Upper Crust Pizza, a local joint that makes seriously good pie. The place is small and non-pretentious, but it has an excellent selection of beers (though lovers of Bud Light and the like may be left high and dry) and their pizza has just the right balance of crust to toppings and doesn’t go overboard on the tomato sauce or cheese. We ended up eating here several times during our stay and took leftovers back to the boat with us.
There was also (as promised by our fellow cruisers) a Publix grocery store within easy walking distance of the dinghy dock. This had been one of the selling points to sailing the Keys, since major grocery stores can only be found in Nassau and Freeport in The Bahamas. In the out islands, only a few settlements have even small groceries and you need to hit those soon after the mailboat makes its weekly delivery or things will be picked over. While the Largo Publix does provide all the grocery conveniences of home, the prices are more reflective of The Bahamas. In fact, we have found all the Keys to be very pricey. Granted, it does cost more to ship stuff when there is only one 125-mile long highway (the famed US-1) to reach all of the Keys but I really can’t justify the prices we paid.
Our walks to Upper Crust and Publix took us past a little roadside food truck called Marker 101 BBQ (so called because its located at the 101-mile marker on US-1). For the first few days we’d comment on how delicious the smoky scent was and how we ought to stop there. We finally did, taking home a pound of pulled pork to enjoy for lunch the next day. Damn! That was the best BBQ either one of us had eaten in a long while! It was so good that (spoiler alert!) a month later when I had to pick Cindy up from the Fort Lauderdale airport, we stopped off and got three more pounds to take with us on our trip back up north.
Early on our first Saturday morning at Largo, we hoofed it 3 miles down US-1 (thankfully there’s a nice wide walking path on either side of the highway) to reach the Key Largo Conch House. We were both thankful to find that the place hadn’t changed much. It still sits hidden back from the highway by trees and shrubs, though I do think they’ve been trimmed back quite a ways since our last visit.
We were seated on a table in a corner of the restaurant’s wrap-around porch and served chilled mimosas, a key lime one for me and a traditional orange one for Cindy. Cindy opted for her favorite Crab Cake Benedict while ordered a Southern version of Eggs Benedict with a sausage patty in lieu of Canadian bacon served on corn bread rather than an English muffin. Cindy loved hers as always; mine was really good, though I would have preferred the cornbread not to have been made with the sweet Jiffy mix.
Cindy, Jamie and Martin aboard Just One Dance
We stuck around Key Largo a little longer also to meet up with our friend Jamie who was vacationing in south Florida. Despite all the friends who say they’d love to come down and stay with us on the boat, Jamie is the only one who has come down to meet up with us each year. We went snorkeling at John Pennekamp State Park, a Florida park which includes a vast expanse of offshore reefs and a famous sunken statue of Jesus with his arms upraised (covered in fire coral, so no high fives!). While we had hoped to dive on the statue, our captain opted to take us elsewhere on the reef due to the crowds already at the statue. The reefs were beautiful, though you could tell they had taken a beating from Hurricane Irma but were coming back nicely.
After snorkeling, we all went out to dinner at Sundowners, a beautifully situated bar and grill at Blackwater Sound, the next bay over from us. The restaurant sits right on the beach and looks out westward over the inland waterway. My baby back ribs were excellent, juicy and tender, and I thoroughly loved my Hemingway Cocktail (aged rum, cane syrup and lime juice). Cindy and Jamie both enjoyed their offerings as well. We’re planning on moving on soon, but it we have a chance to stop by Blackwater Sound we will definitely dinghy in for dinner again.