March 20, 2010 – Palmetto to Englewood, FL
We untied the lines and pulled away from our dock at 11:30 with farewell waves from our neighbors and clear blue skies overhead.
Captain Bob was at the helm and I acted as navigator.
The winds were light as we cruised down the Manatee River into Tampa Bay. The bay was littered with anchored boats taking advantage of one of the first warm, calm days in a long time. Boat traffic on the bay was heavy on this first official day of Spring. Our initial thoughts were melancholy as we made our first boat trip in 15 years without our beloved dog, Murphy. We were comforted in knowing that his spirit is always with us. We turned south and entered the ICW at Anna Maria Island. Traffic on the ICW was heavy—-from sailboats to kayaks and everything in between.
One advantage to having this smaller boat is being able to get under more bridges and not having to wait for an opening. Car traffic on both bridges was bumper to bumper going over to the beaches on Anna Maria Island. People seemed to be out in droves! Today the vernal equinox took place at 1:32. That means that at precisely that time, both the daytime and nighttime hours are of equal length. It happens again in the fall on Sept. 22. (Here’s another piece of trivia for you that I read in the paper today. Easter is always observed on the first Sunday, after the first full moon, after the vernal equinox. Now who decided on that arrangement?) As we neared Serosity, we became surrounded by about 70 sailboats (I counted them) that were participating in a regatta. There was a nice breeze, so it made for great sailing just off of Longboat Key. (In keeping with my tradition of finding unusual boat names, we passed one on the ICW called “Die Broke”. Wouldn’t it be great if we could time the length of our lives just right to accomplish that? What fun we could have!) We entered an area just north of Venice known for dolphins. Boaters congregate there in hopes of seeing them swim up alongside their boats. It’s a crazy place!
As we passed under the Casey Key bridge, a police boat came screaming by with blue lights flashing and sirens blaring!
We suspected that there was a boating accident just near the bridge. That got us to thinking…..What is the protocol for what you should do on the water when you encounter a police boat with flashing lights and sirens? That’s one we’ll have to look into. We found Venice Inlet to be a very active place with people out enjoying a day on the water. Boats were everywhere!
Our first day on the boat gave us a comfortable ride and no mishaps. We couldn’t have asked for more. We dropped anchor at 3:40 near Englewood Beach at one of our favorite anchorages in the area after going 57.7 miles today. We relaxed with cocktails before dinner and enjoyed the remainder of the day while listening to tunes and making plans for tomorrow. Bob grilled some chicken for dinner and we enjoyed the rest of the evening under the stars. It was a heavenly day!
March 21, 2010 Englewood to Cayo Costa State Park, FL
We got up with the sun, had breakfast, and checked the weather report. A cold front is moving in bringing showers and strong winds later today. We decided to make the 20 mile trip to Cayo Costa State Park before the rains came and drop anchor in the protected bay there for the night. The sun eventually succumbed to the clouds as we pulled anchor at 8:15 and headed out into the ICW. The winds were light and the temp was 66. There was very little boat traffic that early on a Sunday morning. It was mostly sailboats getting an early start. The ferry was already busy taking people over to Palm Island and back to the mainland.
That’s the only way to get to this “charming island”. Along the ICW we spotted a HUGE leafless banyan tree. We had never seen one without leaves and it was amazing.
We timed the 9:00 opening of the Boca Grande bridge perfectly and continued on our way. The sun played hide and seek among the clouds and quickly warmed things up when it was out. The sky darkened behind us as we crossed Charlotte Harbor with 8 miles to go. We entered the bay to Cayo Costa at 9:30 and beat the rain. We chose a spot close to our neighbors from home, Denny and Brigid, and one that would be protected from the west wind tonight. Their boat, Aurora, was anchored in a great spot, so we anchored just ahead of them.
We settled in to wait for the rain and wind shift as the front approached. Our friends came by to say “hi” and then dinghied ashore. We opted to hang around on the boat and see what the weather was going to do. Boats came and went from the anchorage all morning. We had lunch and did some reading as we heard the clap of thunder in the distance. After an hour or so, the rain blew by to the north of us, but the wind speed jumped to 16 mph., gusting to 20. The skies cleared and the sun came out, but the wind continued to blow causing whitecaps in the bay. Bob tried to adjust the anchor, when he discovered the windlass (device used to lower and raise the anchor) didn’t work.
After a lot of testing, he diagnosed the problem. He discovered that the solenoid on the windlass control system was shot. He would have to bypass the system until we can get a replacement. What a whiz he is! He worked on it for about 30 minutes and we were back in business. And…..just in time as the sky behind us grew darker and the rain became imminent. Around 2:30 the storm moved in with winds clocked at 22, gusting to 36. Thunder boomed above us and the rain began. It poured and blew for about 2 hours. We were ready in case the anchor broke free, but it didn’t. Finally the storm moved on and the winds subsided. We wiped down the boat and invited our friends over for cocktails before dinner.
The skies began to clear a little and hopefully the winds would remain calmer overnight. We made dinner on the stove and watched a DVD. The winds subsided a little and we would have a peaceful evening.
March 22, 2010 Cayo Costa State Park
Overnight it rained lightly, but the winds remained calm. We woke to partly cloudy skies and the weather forecast is for temps in the 70’s. We decided to stay here another day before moving south toward Ft. Myers on Wednesday. We had breakfast and dried off the boat from the rain yesterday. Bob started his research on finding a new solenoid for the windlass system and we waited for the day to warm up a little. We want to take a dinghy trip with Denny and Brigid through the “tunnel of love” to the beach. This was a mangrove-lined waterway to one of the most beautiful beaches in FL on the island of Cayo Costa. I don’t know how it came to be called the “tunnel of love”, but the locals all refer to it by that name. It was “redesigned” a little after Hurricane Charley, but the entrance still remains the same. The beach is known for its powdery, white sand and lots of “treasures”. In the past, we have found tons of sand dollars, a turtle carcass, a dead dolphin, and lots of unusual seashells. The beach is open to the Gulf, so the waves really bring in lots of surprises. After the storm yesterday, we should be able to find some great shells. We packed a lunch, our beach chairs, and took the 30 minute ride to the “tunnel”.
We docked our dinghies in the mangroves, and walked across the island to the water. We could hear the roar of the waves in the distance and it grew louder as we approached the beach. Signs of spring were everywhere–trees and shrubs were budding and the cacti were getting ready to bloom.
There was a 10 degree difference in temperature from being on the water to walking on the island. The wave action from previous storms had eroded a lot of the beach since our last visit, but we found a nice section in which to stake our claim for the afternoon.
We ate our lunches and enjoyed sitting in the sun. Brigid and I took a walk down the beach and I was lucky enough to find some sand dollars and pristine shells. We saw only a few other people on this stretch of beach and the waves were really breaking near the shore.
After a couple of hours, we packed up and headed back to the dinghies. On the way back, Denny and Brigid, showed us a new anchorage possibility for future trips.
We decided we’d meet back at their boat, Aurora, for cocktails and a game of dominoes. It turned out to be a beautiful day! We enjoyed our game of dominoes (I won) and conversation. As the sky started to sink in the sky, we headed back to the boat to grill steaks for dinner.
The clouds stayed out of the western sky to produce a nice sunset and the fitting end to a great day. We’ll spend another day here in Cayo Costa with another nice day expected tomorrow. It should be a calm, restful night.
March 23, 2010 Cayo Costa State Park
By the time we went to sleep last night the winds had calmed off and the water was like glass. We slept like babies…..until 4:30 when the winds changed direction out of the north and the boat began rocking and rolling. We slept off and on until we finally got up around 8:00. The skies were clear and it should warm up quickly today. Bob took the dinghy to scout out a new anchorage just around the corner and out of the north wind. Our friends, Pam and Don, like to anchor there, so we thought we’d give it a try. Bob got some local knowledge from some boaters on how to get in there without running aground, so we pulled our anchor around 10:30 and moved. Once we had the anchor down and secure, we relaxed a little before lunch.
After lunch, Bob and I took the dinghy over to the park dock.
We took the mile walk across the island to the beach
and discovered that the park was brimming with spring break campers.
The campsites were full of college students and the cabins were occupied by family groups. It was the fullest we’ve ever seen the park! We walked along the beach for about a 1/2 mile looking for shells, but instead found the beach scattered with red sea urchins.
They must have died in the cold spell or storm we had recently and got washed up on the beach.
We walked to an inland lake where we could get out of the wind. The water was an unusual aqua color, but beware! Posted signs said there was no swimming due to alligators. We kept our eyes peeled for any movement, as we sat on the beach in the sun.
We walked back to the trailhead that took us through the campground and got a glimpse of everyone enjoying the nice weather. As we took the mile walk back to the dock, we noted all the wildflowers in bloom.
We returned to the boat in the dinghy and felt satisfied that we had gotten our exercise for the day. Back in our sheltered bay, we relaxed and watched the ospreys hunting above us. We listened to their screeching calls as they returned to their nests in the mangrove trees all around us. More boats entered the bay to spend the night. Brigid and Denny came over for cocktails around 5:00 and we visited for a couple of hours before saying our goodbyes. They would be heading north, as we go south tomorrow to Cape Coral. After they left, we grilled pork chops for dinner and relaxed with some TV before turning in.
March 24, 2010 Cayo Costa State Park to Cape Coral, FL
We had breakfast and pulled anchor at 9:30 after a very restful night. The sky was blue, winds were light, and temps expected to be in the 70’s….a perfect day for traveling. We are taking the 25 mile trip to Bernie and Barb Heinemann’s house in Cape Coral. We’ll be spending 2 days on their dock in the backyard. Bob and Bernie will be working on the solenoid issue and making some adjustments to our Freedom Lift with Donny in Ft. Myers. Good thing we have such knowledgeable, helpful friends. Denny and Brigid were already on their way by the time we left. They would have a good day for sailing toward home. Traffic was light on the ICW in the protected waters of Pine Island Sound. Most of the traffic was heading north as we traveled south.
We passed Cabbage Key where we’ve enjoyed a couple of New Year’ Eve parties. It looked pretty empty.
Traveling past North Captiva Island it was pretty apparent where the island was sliced in two by Hurricane Charley in 2004. The area has since filled in, but there is little vegetation and few trees as of this date. We passed a high speed Catamaran that was really moving! It much have been going full speed at 16 mph. That’s fast for a boat like that!
We turned off the ICW at Marker #39 and took the marked channel into South Seas Marina and Resort.
We wanted to take a look around in case we came back with my brother and his chartered boat later next week. We entered the marina basin and took a look around.
It looked like a very nice marina/resort, but it’s a little pricey at $4.00/ft. Along the shore some people were getting ready to do a double parasail. It looked like fun, but I’m sure they were cold up there!
As we neared Sanibel Island, boat traffick started to pick up. We crossed San Carlos Bay and passed through a narrow cut into the “Miserable Mile” and the official start of the Okeechobee Waterway.
There was a parade of boats heading north. No one seemed to be going south with us and Bob commented as to whether ANYONE was working today with all the boats we encountered.
Where were they all going, we wondered? It was noon when we turned off the ICW to Cape Coral and entered the lock that would take us into Bernie and Barb’s canal.
It brought back memories of going through all the locks on our river trip down to Florida. We were experts at this now!
We wound our way through the maze of canals and rounded the corner where we saw Bernie and Barb waiting on the dock to welcome us.
With their help we were tied up to their dock at 1:00. We said our “hellos” and got the boat all situated at the dock.
We relaxed on the lanai and were getting all caught up on things when the doorbell rang and some marina friends dropped in for a visit. Kitty and Lee were very interesting people from Virginia and we visited with them for a couple of hours. After they left, we sat down to a delicious dinner that Barb had created. We took a nice walk around the neighborhood after dinner as the sun was setting and enjoyed some time in their hot tub under the stars. It was a beautiful night! We watched a little TV before turning in for the evening.
March 25, 2010 Cape Coral, FL
The first words out of Bob’s mouth this morning were “what a peaceful night at anchor”. We both laughed and got up to start the day. It was sunny and a little breezy with temps expected to be in the 70’s today. After breakfast, I did some wash while Barb got her famous meatloaf ready for the pot luck at the marina tonight. Bob and Bernie worked on taking the lift apart so we could take it down to the marina where Donny was. He would help Bob saw off the arms a little to make the adjustments we needed on the lift. After a phone call to Donny, we found out it would have to wait until tomorrow. Bernie and Bob did some thinking and found a way to make the adjustments on the lift with the tools that Bernie had on hand in his garage (they were bored and nothing else to do). They just needed to make a stop at the hardware store to get one item to finish the job. When they got back from the hardware store, Bernie and Bob finished their project and it turned out perfectly, thanks to Bernie’s help.
We had lunch and later in the afternoon, Barb and I took a walk in the neighborhood. I got inside a house that was abandoned, but not up for sale. Barb and I considered its possibilities. The day warmed up and we felt some humidity in the air. UPS delivered the new solenoid and Bob and Bernie set to work installing it, while Barb and I read by the pool, watching the boat traffic come by.
I dipped my feet in the pool to cool them off. It felt sooooo good!
When Bob and Bernie finished installing the solenoid, the four of us relaxed by the pool before heading off to the pot luck dinner at Legacy Marina. Once there, we visited with Marv and Carol on their boat, Dee Light, before going down to the tiki hut to set up for the pot luck.
Even their dog, Autumn, came along to check out the great smells.
John, one of the boaters from his boat, Root Beer Float, cooked fish that Marv and Carol had brought back from the Bahamas last summer. It was a true Bahamian fish fry with 3 kinds of fish. We had Mahi-Mahi, grouper, and mackerel.
Everyone brought something to pass. The food was delicious and we got to meet some very nice people.
We visited for awhile before heading back to the house and relaxed watching some TV. We turned in about 10:00 after a wonderful day!
March 26, 2010 Cape Coral, FL
We woke to the patter of rain on the roof, but soon after breakfast, the sun peeked out and the sky cleared. We all hopped in the car to run some errands in Ft. Myers today. We made a stop at the canvas shop, Wal-Mart, Sams, and the Ft. Myers Marina to visit Donny and Pam.
Don was on the boat making preparations for their trip and Pam joined us later after returning from the store where she was shopping for provisions. They would soon be leaving the marina to head north with their 56′ Jefferson across the Okeechobee and north possibly to the Carolinas.
They were anxious to do some traveling and see the sights. We hope to run into them along the way. The girls got a chance to visit while the guys talked about boat stuff.
After visiting with them for awhile, we stopped at Marinatown to check out the boat my brother and his family would be chartering starting tomorrow.
It’s a 43′ Silverton Sedan called Tricia Ann. It should be great for his family of 4 plus a friend.
Bob also wanted to check with the dockmaster about the anchorage nearby where we hoped to spend tomorrow night on our boat. We walked the docks in search of some interesting boat names. Here are a few:
We got back to the house to have cocktails before dinner. The clouds returned and the skies became gray as we sat in the lanai and relaxed. About 5:30 we hopped in the car and headed for city of Matlacha where we had a great seafood dinner at Sandy Hook. Our table had a great view of the Matlacha Pass and dolphins that swim in the waters there.
Once back at the house, we relaxed in the hot tub as the sun set. The 3/4 moon was bright and the moonlight reflected off of the boats at their dock. We watched some TV before calling it a night. Tonight would be our last night with Bernie and Barb. We have enjoyed our visit with them and thank them for their tremendous hospitality during our stay here. Good friends are hard to find!