2007 EndeavourCat Rendezvous
Every year EndeavourCat owners look forward to the annual Rendezvous in the Florida Keys. As is the norm this time of year, the weather this year was about as good as it gets. Perfect temps, no rain and light breezes. The itinerary was to meet at tiny Boca Chita Key, about half way between Miami and Key Largo. A total of seven boats participated this year, along with several EndeavourCat owners who were in Miami for the boat show but didn't come in their boats.
The boats attending the rendezvous were Dream Away, Movin' On, Catatonic, Double SS, and Endeavour. Two more boats, were waiting for us at Islamorada. Our boat, Catatonic was crewed by myself (Capm Woody) and owner Jim Kaufman Catatonic is Jim's third EndeavourCat, and may not be his last. "They just keep building them bigger".
Catatonic was berthed in Ft. Pierce and our mission was to bring enough "Dale's Bar-B-Que" to feed the entire Endeavour gang at Boca Chita. Most of the boats would arrive there Tuesday afternoon and dine on the food they brought with them. We would pick up the bar-b-que from our favorite place on Tuesday evening and be there in time for dinner on Wednesday. Simple plan, but we were over a hundred miles away and one misstep could put a real damper on the party. Confident in the soundness of our yacht, the strength of our abilities, the purity of our hearts and the righteousness of our mission, we loaded up a big cooler full of the best smelling bar-b-que money could buy and left the dock around 8am Wednesday morning heading south.
Realizing the importance of our food delivery mission, we speculated on how long it would be before some nervous Boca Chitan would be calling us on the cell phone to check on our progress. If for any reason we didn't arrive, everyone else would be dining on leftovers from the back of the fridge. Normally the EndeavourCat folks are a pleasant, polite, and in this case perennial group, but when you're all psyched up for bar-b-que and it doesn't arrive, things can turn ugly in a hurry. But as it was, the only thing they had to fear, was fear itself. Right on time, we appeared on the horizon like the pony express bringing in an important dispatch.....from Dale's Bar-B-Que.
After cruising all day at a
comfortable 15 knots, we tied up to the seawall in plenty of time and delivered the goods to a
grateful group of hungry boaters.
Eventually most everything was consumed and Jim Kaufman brought out what veterans of previous rendezvous were anxiously awaiting....his wife Audrey's famous (or infamous) Baba* Bourbon Cake. Basically a course grained pound cake that is nearly awash in Jack Daniels and carefully prepared so as NOT to cook out any of the "active ingredient". This cake would make Jack Daniels himself proud and has been a tradition aboard Catatonic for many years. I'm not sure what, if anything happened after the baba was consumed. All I know is the crew of Catatonic stumbled back to the boat (which was only two stumbles away) and quietly retired for the night.
* Definition: [BAH-bah] Also called baba au rhum, this rich yeast cake is soaked in a rum or kirsch syrup. It's said to have been invented in the 1600s by Polish King Lesczyinski, who soaked his stale kugelhopf in rum and named the dessert after the storybook hero Ali Baba. The classic baba is baked in a tall, cylindrical mold but the cake can be made in a variety of shapes, including small individual rounds. When the cake is baked in a large ring mold it's known as a savarin. However, further investigation reveals that a traditional kugelhopf is actually made in a large ring mold with swirled fluting, exactly as the Catatonic tradition. Ahhh, I love it when the universe is in balance.
For those of you who are still curious....
Before leaving Boca Chita we wanted to check out the whole island. It's not
very big and there is a trail around the perimeter. Some how we got separated
(there really is a lot to look at) and I ended up entering the perimeter trail
alone. The mosquitoes had been present at dawn but not very many. The
further I walked the more their population, and hunger, grew. It got so bad that
I was passing by the historical plaques, walking very fast and seriously
contemplating turning back. But I figured I had passed the half-way point and
going back would end the adventure and I'd never know what was around that next
bend in the trail, so I pressed on. Pretty soon I was at full gallop with a
massive swarm of hungry mosquitoes following me like some cartoon drawing,
finally emerging from the narrow trail and into the wide open spaces of civilization.
Gradually the mosquitoes diminished and soon became the occasional annoyance
they had been earlier. As I approached the dock an unsuspecting couple was
obviously headed out for a morning adventure. After a brief discussion of my
recent experience, they decided to stick to the beaten path and save the less
traveled path for another time. I'm sure at other times of the day it's a very
nice walk, just don't try it too close to sunrise or sunset.
Catatonic was low on fuel so we left Boca Chita first and headed across the bay to a marina to fuel up. Everybody else would remain in lazy vacation mode and meet us at Gilberts in Key Largo. The mission for today was simply to get to Gilberts Resort in Key Largo in time for diner that evening, a distance of a mere 12 miles. After fueling up we leisurely motored down Biscayne Bay and Card Sound, enjoying another perfect day in paradise and laughing about all the blizzards pounding the higher latitudes. Biscayne bay is one of our favorites. It's mostly 10 feet or less and the bottom is always visible. You get to see lots of sea life. Dolphins, manatees, sea turtles, sharks, rays and all kinds of fish, sponges and corals. We traveled slowly enjoying the view. Apparently everyone else did too because this time we would be first to get there and took pictures of the other boats as they arrived.
Just before the bridge was to open an auto accident occurred right on the bridge at Jewfish Creek, blocking all car and boat traffic for quite some time. There was a lot of cussing and yelling as well as many birds aflying in the minutes that followed. The bridge did finally open and after securing all the boats to the dock, the hard core crews headed for Gilbert's famous tiki bar for a pre-diner cocktail. What everybody else did, I don't know. I was in the hard core group and on a mission.
Joining us at Gilbert's were several EndeavourCat owners who were in the area but not with their boats. This was the first stop on our rendezvous that was accessible by car. Catatonic's crew more than doubled in number because of this access by car. At Gilberts we took on one more adult, three more kids and three dogs for a grand total of 8 humans and three members of the canine persuasion. Since kids and dogs can sleep almost anywhere, this wasn't as big a problem as it might seem. The EndeavourCat 44 has lots of real estate. You just had to watch where you were stepping when the lights were out. When the diner bell rang all but the kids and dogs headed for Gilbert's restaurant. The youngsters and the canines opted for delivery pizza.
Gilbert's is now run by a German couple, hence all the German food on the menu. And when in Rome, do as the....oh, that's tomorrow night. Tonight we're in Li'l Germany so why not let them do what they do best. It was "schnitzel nacht" for me and many others. Food and hospitality were excellent and the company was even better.
Next morning we had a leisurely breakfast on board and looked over the charts of the day's route and destination, World Wide Sportsman at Islamorada on Lower Matacumbe Key. While we were getting ready to leave Gilbert's, a mama manatee was showing off her baby along side the docks. Like most people, I never get tired of watching manatees up close and they drew a small crowd of admirers.
None of us aboard Catatonic had been into this particular spot before so we fell back and let Bob lead us in with his 40 ft pilothouse EndeavourCat. A good thing too because it was shallow. Bob's voice crackled over the radio, "Just follow me....and Don't Stop." Did I mention that it was shallow? I've never seen lower numbers on the depth sounder, ever. We're all used to the shallow water of the keys, but this was a whole new experience. The only thing I can figure is that the boundary between water and mud is so gradual that you just sort of float through the mud. We came in one by one at two or three knots and made it to the dock.
Two of the boats had opted to anchor out for the night because there was not enough room at the dock for all of us and they wanted an early start in the morning. As it was, we were rafted up two deep since two more EndeavourCat 44s were already waiting for us at the dock. Once we were all secured, Rob came aboard Catatonic and fired up the Margarita Machine on the aft deck and served to the gathering on the dock.
That evening diner was at the nearby Italian restaurant Tower of Pizza. We were joined by even more Endeavour owners-past and present-including ????, etc, etc, etc. Bonnie and Rick ???? who were down in the Keys doing some land cruising in their R/V. Endeavour owners remain friends and in touch even while they are "between boats."
Islamorada's World Wide Sports is a great venue. World class
shopping for anything fishing and casual wear, the sister ship of Papa's famous
fishing boat___ along with a roof top bar and of course the Islamorada
Fish Company restaurant make it a destination resort. It's a fine place to
provision for crab cakes, bait and ice prior to pushing off. A grocery and
liquor store are within walking distance for the intrepid, as are many shops
selling all things cute, curious and touristy. A beach bar with a Jimmy Buffet
type singer was playing just off the property. "Nibblin' on sponge cake, Watchin'
the sun bake", etc. etc. I wonder if Jimmy Buffet himself ever gets tired of it.
It's almost like it's a state law that every bar in the keys has to play Buffet
music. I'm still a big Buffet fan, but please, give me a break. After 30 years
of the same old songs, it's beginning to wear a little thin. But what can ya do.
The tourists love it.
The last morning was spent saying good byes to new and old
friends, enjoying more baba and coffee and exchanging recipes before we all went our separate ways. Before departing, we made another
crew change. Two of the kids, three dogs and one adult departed and we took on
another adult, bringing our total to three adults and three kids for the final
leg of our journey. Late morning we headed north, to St. Petersburg. Catatonic
was going into the charter service based in St. Pete and we were all anxious to
get her home and all clean and shiny for her first charter. Rob and
Jon aboard the Pilothouse 40 were also headed for St. Pete. They left before us
and were on the horizon all day. Unlike us, as it got later they decided to push
on all the way to Everglades City for the first night. We preferred the more
leisurely pace and opted to anchor in the Shark River for the night. Since the
original plan was to raft up and dine together, the steaks were aboard the 40
footer with Rob and Jon. As we entered the Shark River we encouraged the remaining kids to get
the fishing gear ready. "If y'all don't catch dinner it's gonna be ham and eggs
tonight". They immediately started trolling and with five minutes had landed an
eight pound grouper. The kids were excited, the adults were excited, the
seagulls and pelicans were excited and I'm sure the dogs would have been excited
had they still been aboard. It was a beautiful moment. The dinner guest was
dutifully filleted and prepared for presentation to the grill. It fed all six of
us with leftovers for the next day. I could tell you how good it was but I don't
want to gloat.
Saturday morning we motored back out the river and headed north again,
cruised at 15 knots all day, entered Boca Grande Pass and anchored between
Cabbage Key and Useppa Island just before sunset. Jim had passed by Cabbage Key
a dozen times since 1997 but because of the timing, had never stopped. This
night, even though it was (as much as Florida ever gets) cold and blustery, we
were going in! We arrived late so Jim didn't have the chance to meet Terry,
their cantankerous and infamous dock master--although I get along with him just
fine. Just follow his instructions precisely and promptly and everything goes
well. If you don't......it don't. Rather than take Catatonic into the dock, we
all pilled into the dinghy and motored across the channel. We were pleasantly
surprised with the meals. Rumors were that the dining experience had been
declining over the years. If that was true, it isn't any more. We all enjoyed
fresh fish, wonderfully prepared and courteously served. We bought the requisite
T-shirts on our way out, vowing to not pass by Cabbage Key again!
As soon as we got back to the Catatonic, the boys broke out the fishing gear and fished on into the night. Kids, by nature, are not the tidiest creatures on the planet, so the fish handling was not confined to the aft deck. Each flopping catch was paraded all around the boat for everyone to admire. After two days of this, we were beginning to smell like a fishing boat. Not succumbing to total child indulgence, we did draw the line at the companionway door. "You don't get inside until you clean up at the deck shower."
At dawn we headed out Boca Grande Pass and then northward to St. Pete. We left in a light fog which lasted all day. Midday we entered Tampa Bay and saw Rob and Jon in the pilothouse 40 for the first time in two days. We were headed for the same dock and arrived just as they were tying up. Rob started scrubbing the dock, thinking that the dock smelled like fish. It was actually us raising the stink. We hosed everything down and the next day gave it a good scrubbing.
Although I've been sailing EndeavourCats for many years, beginning with their very first catamaran, this was my first Endeavour Rendezvous. I guess I was out doing something else at the time, but I won't miss another. And all of you EndeavourCat owners out there, this is something you need to put on your calendar. When the snow is blowing hard and cold up north, you just can't beat a few balmy days in February in the Florida Keys. If you can't bring your boat, fly down and join us.