We were delayed a bit on the morning of our departure by fog. It gave us time to get a pumpout and go over the route to Marco Island. As we left Pink Shell, the fog was clearing with sun and clouds remaining at a warm 67 degrees. It was pretty hazy and foggy throughout most of the day, warming to 72 degrees. We pulled into Factory Bay on Marco Island, and the sun was hot! We even turned the air conditioning on for a bit. Later in the afternoon, a former colleague of Tony's and her husband, Sylvia and Merle Henry, picked us up and took us to dinner at a fresh fish restaurant. Then they took us to their old house, now an airbnb run by their daughter, to spend the weekend. We were able to get caught up on laundry and use their car to visit the Everglades and grocery shop for provisions for our trip to Key West. It was a lovely little break from the boat for a few nights. In addition, we were able to enjoy time with Sylvia and Merle at some of their favorite restaurant and even church!

On Sunday, we returned to the boat and moved to Rose Marina where we would keep the boat for 5 days until we had a good weather day to cross the Gulf of Mexico to Stock Island at Key West. Parked directly behind us was the Key West Express, the huge catamaran that takes travelers to Key West every day. Since we were likely going to be at Marco Island for more than a few days, we again got off the boat for a night to spend time with other friends from home, Jim and Sandi Clawson. They hosted us for a delicious dinner, topped off with homemade pistachio ice cream in their home in Naples. The next morning, Tony enjoyed one of his favorites biscuits and gravy, and Karen enjoyed the tour of Sandi's gardens and artist studio. Before taking us back to the boat, Jim and Sandi took us to a citrus farm where we found another of Tony's favorites, creamsicle ice cream cone.

Back on the boat, we found a place for one of Karen's new favorites, pickleball. We walked 2.5 miles to the YMCA to play the game with 100+ people on 9 courts. It was well organized by a staff member of the YMCA and we got to play 4 games. We lost all 4 games, but it was good practice for us newbie pickleball players. We walked the 2.5 miles back to the boat. We count it as training for the Camino Walk that we plan to do in June! Later that evening, we hosted docktails outside our boat on Wednesday night. The crew of 2 looper boats came by via dingy, Miss Candy G and Agape.

After watching the weather closely, we decided that Friday would be our departure day and we'd go out across the Gulf, rather then hugging the shoreline and going a bit further east than we needed to. As we left Marco Friday morning, we found ourselves cruising right behind another boat headed in the same direction, Hallelujah. We'd met the crew of Hallelujah in Sarasota and it was such a comfort to travel right behind them on our journey to the Keys in open water.