Almost A New Year

Day 118: Monday, December 31, 2012

Port to Port: Fort Myers Beach

Underway: 0:00 am      Motor Off: 0:00 pm      Miles Traveled: 0      Stayed At: Marina

First Things First: Saw our first beach wedding at sunset.

Mile to Mile: Breakfast, museum, shopping, return car, beach walk, beach wedding, organize boat, margaritas, movies and fireworks. A busy end to an amazing year.

We had the car until mid-afternoon so we drove into Fort Myers to wander through the Ford and Edison Estate and Museum. We had wanted to stop here with Jess and Sarah but ran out of time (they even agreed to go if we had time). We happened to drive last night and the grounds were lit up with holiday lights and decorations – an amazing sight. Thomas Edison’s winter home/estate has been restored and turned into a wonderful museum. He even had a large research lab on the property that has been restored to be historically accurate. Henry Ford bought the property next door and used to spend a couple weeks a year in the winter visiting Fort Myers and his friend Thomas Edison (Edison was a mentor to Ford – their history together as friends for many years is an interesting story). Stop by if you can – it is a great place to spend some time on a warm sunny day.

We did a couple of errands and returned the car in the afternoon. We were back to Aurora in time to take a long walk on the beach – just in time to see a small wedding take place on the beach just as the sun was setting in the west. Risky to plan but, when it works, a memory for a lifetime. This couple had perfect timing.

Fort Myers Beach has amazing fireworks on the beach tonight so we needed to try to stay awake until after midnight. After making dinner, enjoying a couple of margaritas and watching two movies on Netflix, it was time to wander down the 10 minutes to the beach to stake out our little spot in the sand to bring in the New Year. We are incredibly lucky to be here and able to have this (hopefully not) once in a lifetime experience. Happy New Year (a little early) everyone.

Goodbye and Hello Again

Day 117: Sunday, December 30, 2012

Port to Port: Fort Myers Beach

Underway: 0:00 am      Motor Off: 0:00 pm      Miles Traveled: 0      Stayed At: Marina

Mile to Mile: The week went way too fast. Its’ already time to say goodbye to the girls – we‘ve had an amazing time exploring our little piece of the Suncoast with them. It’s always hard to say goodbye when we don’t know when we’ll be able to see each other again. Maybe we can figure out a way to meet up again on the east coast – how does New York City sound?

I dropped Jess off at the airport early in the morning for her long trip back to San Francisco. We dropped Sarah off a little before lunch but not before another Target run to look for more after-Christmas deals. It was perfect timing because now everything was 75% off and we were able to return some items we bought at 50% off and buy the same items at 75% off. We probably saved another $20+ so it pays to be persistent. And now Sarah was satisfied that she got the best deals possible -until next year at this time at least.

Since we have a car again, we might as well do some exploring. So we headed west toward the beach again and stopped at a huge flea market – they say they have almost 2,000 vendors. You could buy everything from 1970’s stereo equipment to puppies to bicycles. We didn’t find anything that we could live without, though. That is one advantage of living on a small boat – its’ self-limiting how much stuff you can buy and fit onboard and we are already well past that limit. We did put in probably 8,000 steps, though, going up and down the aisles so at least we got some exercise.

We decided a return trip to Dunedin might be fun so we called our friends on Spiritus to see if they wanted to go out to dinner and visit – we were sure they would still be there. Amazingly, after 5+ weeks enjoying their stay at the municipal marina, they had moved on and were anchored out in the anchorage on Longboat Key near Moores’ Stone Crab restaurant where we stopped several weeks ago. And this was on our way home. And they were not busy in the afternoon. And they would love to have us stop by for a BBQ. Sounds like a plan to me.

So, although we were sad to have said goodbye to Jess and Sarah this morning, it was amazing (as always) to visit and laugh and share a great meal with Eddy and Linda on Spiritus just a few hours later – this must be the definition on ying and yang – the good and bad trying to balance their way out each day. We had a blast catching up on our respective adventures and are already making plans to try to meet up again somewhere around Fort Myers Beach later this month. We can’t wait.


Back To Nature

Day 116: Saturday, December 29, 2012

Port to Port: Side Trip to Tampa Florida

Underway: 0:00 am      Motor Off: 0:00 pm      Miles Traveled: 0      Stayed At: Hotel

First Things First: First time for everyone to see manatees up close and personal.

Mile to Mile: Our first stop today was Manatee Park near Fort Myers. The manatee come up the river to hang out in the relatively warm water near the outlet to a power plant. We finally all saw manatee – even Cindy. The water is still pretty dark and they usually just raise the tip of their noses up to breath and then sink back down below the surface so they are still hard to see. Once in a while, though, we got to see a whole body at the surface to appreciate how big these creatures really are. And slow. And gentle. Its amazing more don’t get hit by powerboats. They move extremely slowly and would seem to have a hard time avoiding a fast moving boat (and many actually do get injured and killed every year getting hit by boats and scarred by props). We decided to rent kayaks to actually get up close and personal with them which was an amazing experience. We even had one “sneeze” right by us spraying us with salty water. Now that doesn’t happen everyday. What a blast.

After our manatee adventure, it was time for some after Christmas power-shopping at Target. This has become somewhat of a tradition with us – we have actually hauled bags full of 75% off treasures home from our visits to Target on Christmas trips to Las Vegas – sad but true. Well, we scored some cheap treats and Sarah found a few can’t-live-without-treasures at 50% off including a couple useful Ipad cases and some freeze-your-own shot glass molds. We stashed our bags in the trunk and headed for Tampa by way of Venice beach – again.

The girls had so much fun looking for sharks’ teeth last time that we needed to stop and try again (and I wasn’t complaining either). The wind was roaring this time, though, stirring up the surf, making it hard to see anything. Sarah was so focused on finding more treasures she kept forgetting about the surf breaking on the nearby rocks and she ending up soaking wet from several direct hits – lucky it was at least warm and sunny out since she kept looking for another hour all wet. (I can’t help smiling, thought, when I remember the expression on her face and the water dripping off her hair after the first wave got her). We weren’t as lucky as our last visit but we did score some pretty nice fossils to add to our collections.

After a long drive toward Tampa, we decided to squeeze in one more sunset on the beach – can’t get too many of those can we? So we stopped at St. Petersburg Beach just before the sun starting setting and watched as the sun slowly sank below the waves. A nice end to a wonderful day.

The week has gone way too fast and we don’t want our adventure together to be over. We are incredibly thankful, though, that we had this special and memorable time together. Did I mention how lucky we are?

Road Trip

Day 115: Friday, December 28, 2012

Port to Port: Fort Myers Beach

Underway: 0:00 am      Motor Off: 0:00 pm      Miles Traveled: 0      Stayed At: Marina

First Things First: Found some ocean sponges on the beach

Mile to Mile: We started the day with a party – an abelskiver party again. This time just for us and the kids. What a nice treat – and we made them in a real kitchen at the girls’ house. And we even had a few left over for snacking on later.

We have a car again today but getting it proved to be a frustrating experience. We had a “reservation” at Enterprise for 10 am so I walked 2+ miles to their office nearby to pick up our car only to find that they didn’t have any cars and we would be number 10 or 12 on their waiting list. Not welcome news. Have you heard of making a phone call? We had plans that depended on having a car today so this was incredibly annoying to say the least. Not much you can do though – there aren’t any other choices nearby. They did drive me to the grocery store to get a few things and dropped me off at the marina so at least I didn’t have to walk home. They will call later when a car is ready and pick us up. Not a great way to run a business though.

After an amazing breakfast, cleaning up our mess and a long walk around the north end of Fort Myers Beach we finally got a call that a car was ready. Four plus hours after our scheduled reservation, after we sat waiting for them for almost an hour, someone finally arrived to pick us up. We finally got a car – not particularly clean but it had four wheels and an engine – and we drove towards Sanibel where the girls wanted to explore the beach some more and check on the shopping. After our exhaustive explorations, we stopped at Doc Fords Rum Bar and Grill on Sanibel Island for a snack and drinks and took a leisurely drive back to Fort Myers Beach.

We dropped the girls off at their house and went back to the boat to get the parts for grilling hamburgers and making margaritas. After dinner, we watched another Netflix movie and returned to Aurora tired but happy for another great day with our girls. We are incredibly lucky to be doing what we are doing right now.

Flying High

Day 114: Thursday, December 27, 2012

Port to Port: Fort Myers, Florida

Underway: 0:00 am      Motor Off: 0:00 pm      Miles Traveled: 0      Stayed At: Marina

First Things First: Saw our first horseshoe crabs; First time parasailing (for the girls).

Mile to Mile: After a quiet nights’ sleep, Cindy and I walked back to the boat – all was calm and quiet now – to pick up yogurt and fruit for breakfast plus we grabbed some coffee and donuts on the way back to the house. After a leisurely breakfast, we wandered over to the beach on a warm sunny morning so the girls could get in line to go parasailing. Sarah – aka “the Dealmaker” – found a Groupon for half-off a dual flight so they both were able to fly for $75 (plus tax and tip). Nice deal. Jess used to hate heights – we had to bribe her once to climb 50’ to the top of a fire tower. But she’s obviously outgrown that and they both had a blast. I was able to ride along on the boat to take pictures – Cindy stayed on shore to take pictures and soak up some rays. The most amazing part was the landing. As they approached the back of the boat (after getting dipped in the ocean for the second time) dolphin suddenly appeared riding the stern wakes on both sides of the boat. Now that doesn’t happen everyday. They were so excited they almost forgot their landing instructions.

After a strenuous morning flying out over the Gulf of Mexico and a long hike along the beach, we had an amazing lunch at Nervous Nellies right next door to the marina. Can you guess what Cindy had? (it starts with “shrimp” and ends with “boy”)? The food was wonderful (a rare event we have found so far), and the scenery across the water and live music made for another memorable experience.

Jess’ friend from high school, Steven, drove up from Naples to visit. We tried waiting for the trolley to take us off the island to go miniature golfing but they were way behind schedule so the kids decided to skip a trip to mini-golf to hang out on the beach and watch a Gulf Coast sunset. I’ll let you decide if this was a worthy decision.

Docktails with the kids on our boat for some potent Dark and Stormies, snacks and more live music capped (for us) another amazing day along Forida’s Suncoast. The kids had more exploring to do – something about chicken wings and margaritas or something like that.

Kids At Heart

Day 113: Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Port to Port: Fort Myers, Florida

First Things First: Saw someone catch and release a sea turtle at the fishing pier.

Underway: 0:00 am      Motor Off: 0:00 pm      Miles Traveled: 0      Stayed At: Marina

Mile to Mile: What a difference a day makes. Although mostly sunny, the wind picked up today and made for a blustery day – perfect for exploring the island and doing some shopping.

After a slow start in the morning, we had a late breakfast of homemade pancakes, bacon and orange juice, packed up the girls and moved them into their cute house just a few blocks from the marina on the other side of the channel. Sarah found a great deal on Groupon for a three-day rental that they couldn’t pass up.

After getting them moved in, we wandered around some of the shops and took the trolley down to the far southern end of the island – much quieter at this end than our end. Lots of beach but very little traffic and not many people wandering around. Shopping was a bust here too – we did find an ice cream shop though which we enjoyed while waiting for the trolley back to the marina.

We decided to have a movie night at the house using Netflix so we went by the boat to get some snacks and the computer while the girls went back to their house to rest and relax. The wind was churning up the channel so Cindy and I decided to pack sheets and pillows to camp out with Jess and Sarah – surprise! We would have survived but it was nice to sleep all night without bouncing up and down in peaceful quiet. So much for a wild and crazy night at the beach – we were all sound asleep dreaming about the next day’s adventures before midnight. What a fun day just spending time together.

A Very Happy Holiday

Day 112: Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Port to Port: Fort Myers, Florida

Underway: 0:00 am      Motor Off: 00:00 pm      Miles Traveled: 0      Stayed At: Marina

First Things First: Saw our first baby dolphin.

Mile to Mile: Although we try to do a little planning each day, you never know what the day will bring. Today dawned bright and sunny with a light northwesterly breeze – a perfect day to go sailing. The girls want to explore as many beaches as possible, go sailing at least once while they are here and see dolphins from the boat. Today is that day. We hope.

We got up – the girls slept a little better than last night – had breakfast, opened a few presents, wished family back home a Merry Christmas and cast off the lines for a nice cruise over to Sanibel Island. We’ve talked a lot about how cool it is to see dolphin everyday but you can’t guarantee they will show up. Well, lucky for us, several dolphin greeted us as we motored up the channel out into the Gulf of Mexico – how cool is that? Once out in the channel, we raised the sails and slowly cruised on a beam reach over to the Sanibel Lighthouse on the southern tip of Sanibel island. We anchored just north of the long fishing pier at the park and dinghied to the beach to explore and search for treasure. We didn’t find many “must have” shells but we had a blast beachcoming and checking out the park – another beach checked off the least, dozens more to go.

We raised anchor and sailed back towards Fort Myers Beach – again on a nice gentle beam reach. Within minutes of setting sail, we again saw some dolphin near the boat – this time a mother and her baby. What an amazing sight. We couldn’t have scripted this adventure any better. And the day isn’t over yet.

We motored up the channel, secured the boat in our slip and the girls went off exploring while we started prepping our Holiday Feast – chicken, shrimp, and steak kabobs on the grill, salad and rice – oh, and, of course, strawberry margaritas. What a feast. And to make it even more amazing, we enjoyed live music from Nervous Nellies all evening. What a great way to end another amazing day on the Loop.

Sand, Surf and Fossils

Day 111: Monday, December 24, 2012

Port to Port: Fort Myers, Florida

Underway: 0:00 am      Motor Off: 0:00 pm      Miles Traveled: 0      Stayed At: Marina

First Things First: First time finding fossil sharks teeth; first docktails with the girls.

Mile to Mile: We took the scenic route back to the boat by way of Venice Beach. Jess and Sarah wanted to hit as many beaches as possible on their vacation and Venice Beach is a good place to start. Not only does it offer the standard sand, shells and surf but, as a bonus, you can find fossil sharks teeth here (Thank you Candice for heads-up). Even though we didn’t know what we were doing, all of us were able to find some sharks teeth – mostly small (about the size of a fingernail) but still really cool – these are millions of years old and for some reason they end up on this stretch of beach – a pretty unique way to spend a few hours on a sunny, warm day at the beach.

In case you visit someday, our most successful technique was the snatch and grab – wait for each wave to roll back out and look for small specks of black of the right shape and size and grab them before the next wave washed them away. It’s hard work (standing in the ocean on a warm sunny day) but in 3 hours we found more than a dozen sharks teeth between us. Better yet, bring a long handled screened scoop to reach out into deeper water and filter the sand away before searching. A definite highlight of our trip to Florida.

After several beach stops and sightseeing, we returned to the boat to figure out how to fit two more people and their luggage on a tiny little boat and celebrate Christmas Eve (time for presents). Sarah had brought a large load of treats from home including cookies, lefse and treats from Grandma G. The girls wandered off to explore while Cindy and I rearranged things to make everything fit. The girls are a little bit bigger than they were when we camped on the boat all summer in 2002 but we were able to squeeze everyone in without sinking the boat. It’s only for two nights since the girls have rented a house for several days later this week but its fun to be together “camping” for a little while to share as much time as possible together.

We were lucky too to get back early enough to take the girls to their first docktails. We wandered the 50’ down to the end of the dock to meet some of our neighbors. Everyone was very welcoming and somewhat amazed we were able to fit four adults on our little boat. After months of sharing our docktail stories, the girls finally have their own stories to tell.

Tis The Season (For Parties)

Day 110: Sunday, December 23, 2012

Port to Port: Tampa, Florida

Underway: 0:0 am      Motor Off: 0:00 pm      Miles Traveled: 0      Stayed At: Hotel

First Things First: First hotel stay of the trip; First time visiting relatives.

Mile to Mile: We got up early for our almost 3-hour drive to Tampa to pick up the girls at the Tampa airport (airfares are cheaper here plus we can do some Florida sightseeing and visiting on our way back to Fort Myers). Jess was exhausted after a long sleepless redeye flight from San Francisco by way of Dallas, Texas. Thankfully, both Jess and Sarah’s flights were on time and arrived close to noon so we only needed to make one trip by the airport. We wandered around a nearby mall to waste some time and grab a snack before checking into our hotel near the airport early to relax for a few minutes before heading to Brandon, Florida to visit relatives we haven’t seen for many years.

Elena, my cousin, organized the gathering and, even though it is only a couple days before Christmas, almost everyone was able to attend. Damen and Marissa hosted the gathering at their home and we enjoyed a wonderful pre-Christmas Greek feast of gyros, sandwiches, salad and dessert. (Damen is a manager at a Greek restaurant so he has connections). It was fun to catch up and share stories with 3 generations of our Florida family It was really nice that Jess and Sarah were with since we last saw everyone was about 10+ years ago (way too long but Florida is a little too far east when we tend to go west to Vegas, Phoenix or California on our vacations).. Time flies. Thank you everyone for a wonderful visit.

After leaving the party we stopped by Elena’s new apartment to get a Chi Chi fix (Chi Chi is a cute but very opinionated chiuhua).  Sarah is counting down the days till she can get a puppy so she bides her time by playing with other peoples’ dogs.

Thankfully we didn’t have to drive 3 hours back to the boat tonight (thank you Jess and Sarah for arranging this) – we got back to the hotel relatively early and some of us were asleep as soon as our heads hit the pillow.  (I stayed up to get my Storage Wars fix on cable – it’s a simple show but interesting to watch. It’s always amazing how much people spend to store junk – sometimes for many years). Tomorrow it’s time to hit the beach for some sand, surf and shells.

Road Trip

Day 109: Saturday, December 22, 2012

Port to Port: Fort Myers, Florida

Underway: 0:03 am      Motor Off: 00:00 pm      Miles Traveled: 0      Stayed At: Marina

First Things First: First palm tree farms – miles and miles of them on Pine Island; First giant flea market.

Mile to Mile: After a good nights’ sleep we were ready to get some work done first and then see where the day took us. We spent time (again) purging stuff we have decided we don’t need or haven’t used in the nearly 4 months we have been travelling. There always seems to be be too much stuff. We need to get rid of some weight before the girls visit and add several hundred more pounds for a couple of days. They are planning to stay on the boat for their first two days at the beach and then move to a house they rented nearby. We decluttered and are sending at least 200 pounds of stuff home. For now, we just stacked some bins and extra gas cans on the dock temporarily to make room for our overnight guests.

We have a car so we have to drive somewhere right? Our first stop was a big new West Marine store on the way to downtown Fort Myers. We need a few things to fix our anchor light and improve our living conditions. We were lucky to get out of there for a little over $100 – one boat buck by our definition. Powerboaters down here define a boat buck as $1,000 so we count ourselves lucky. The next stop was a giant fleamarket in Fort Myers – about 15 miles away. We don’t “need” anything but you never know what you might find that solves a problem on the boat. After passing by more than 900 individual booths, Cindy did find some individual silicone muffin cups she has been looking for since we left Minnesota (we are trying to perfect our baking technique and these may help) and we bought some fresh grapefruit and strawberries to add to our fresh food stores. We could have bought a kitchen sink if we had needed one but decided to save that for some other time.

Our next stop was an impromptu visit with Bob and Marilyn in Bokeelia, Florida at the northern tip of Pine Island. They are the parents of one of our neighbors – Paul – a couple houses down from us in Minnesota. Bob and his brother did the Loop on a powerboat named Fuddy Duddy in 3-4 weeks segments over a period of years. We were hoping to get a chance to visit while in the Fort Myers area and luckily we were able to connect. We had a wonderful afternoon visiting with them and talking about some of our mutual adventures. They live in a nice town house with water on boat sides and wonderful natural views over the channel areas – I can see why they like it here so much. Marilyn is an amazing artist and the walls of their home are covered with her paintings and those of other local artists. We didn’t want leave and may come back by boat to visit again.

After a long drive home, we spent a few minutes packing and putting up some Christmas lights to surprise the girls and crashed after another busy day on the Loop.

Roughing It

Day 108: Friday, December 21, 2012

Port to Port: Fort Myers, Florida

Underway: 0:00 am      Motor Off: 0:00 pm      Miles Traveled: 0      Stayed At: Marina

Mile to Mile: The predicted winds welcomed us to Fort Myers Beach last night – 20+ mph straight from the south aiming right at our stern. Sleep was a challenge – the rocky motion was manageable but the new noises kept us awake for big chunks of the night. Whenever you anchor out or tie up to a dock, the first night or two is a learning experience. There are always new noises and new worries to figure out. Did I tie up the boat correctly? What will happen at high/low tide? Are we too close in the front? What was that squeak? What is that banging? Is the dinghy rubbing? You’re just waiting in the dark for a new bang, creek and woosh to show up. You have to become comfortable with all of these uncertainties before you can sleep comfortably. The first night is always a challenge and heavy winds and waves only add to the cacophony of sound. Everything was still in the same place in the morning but we were a little sleep deprived after our first night at Fort Myers Beach.

We started the day by wandering around the Farmers Market right across the street from the marina – fresh cinnamon rolls, grapefruit and veggies helped make our long night fade. I slapped a little more sealant on the bottom stern seam of the dinghy to try to keep water from leaking in – the good news is the tubes are still holding air for more than half a day at a time so we are making progress. We wasted time reading in the laundry room/library and explored a little bit of the touristy section of Fort Myers Beach – lots of restaurants and shops only a few blocks from the marina. We tried a couple of times to move the boat to the other side of the dock where we would be better protected from the wind but decided it was too rough and risky until the wind and waves settled down.

In the afternoon we walked a couple of miles to the Enterprise Car Rental office to pick up a car – we are driving to Tampa on Sunday to pick up the girls for their Christmas visit. We used the opportunity to do some errands and make a Target run before returning to the marina to get ready for our road trip tomorrow.

Thankfully, the winds died down and Aurora settled into a nice gentle motion making sleep a lot more comfortable – we also added a couple of extra spring lines just to make sure we were secure no matter what the winds and currents did overnight. We’ll be here for about a month so we should get this all figured out just about the time we are leaving.

Reality Check

Day 107: Thursday, December 20, 2012

Port to Port: Shell Island to Fort Myers, Florida

Underway: 9:03 am      Motor Off: 11:30 pm      Miles Traveled: 7.5      Stayed At: Marina

First Things First: First boat-made scratch pancakes with strawberries, syrup and whipped cream.

Mile to Mile: It’s finally time to say goodbye to serenity and say hello to civilization. We need to move on before the next cold front moves through on Thursday afternoon with 25-30 knot winds and cold temps. We had a favorable wind and were in no rush so we motorsailed most of the way into Matanza’s Marina at Fort Myers Beach. A nice way to help us mentally prepare for “The Beach”.

Matanza’s Marina only has a handful of slips – most of their business is focused on their Inn customers and the dozens of boats in the municipal mooring field. Some of these people have stayed here for years. Everytime they need to come to shore they have to get in their dingy and motor or oar over to the dingy dock. A very unique lifestye. We decided to stay in a slip because its easier to explore and meet people rather than being tied to a mooring buoy.

We got secured to the stationary dock – always a challenge to adjust the lines just right so the boat doesn’t hit the dock and yet there is enough slack to allow for 3+ foot tidal range.

One of our “rules” is that we try to get our projects done before we have fun so we scrubbed the decks and cockpit (grungy after a couple weeks of travel), reorganized our storage, flushed the motor, did laundry and straightened up the cabin. We took much needed hot showers, put on clean (and still warm) clothes and checked out the onsite restaurant for happy hour and a snack. We wandered around the main shopping area for a little while – an interesting mix of touristy old Florida and new condos and hotels along the beach. We even saw bikini girls wandering through McDonald’s after dark. I don’t think there will be many bikinis visible tomorrow with 20+ mph winds, temps in the 60’s and a freeze watch for tomorrow night. Only a couple more days before we pick up Jess and Sarah. We’re counting down the hours.

Shell Island Dreams

Day 106: Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Port to Port: Shell Island

Underway: 0:00 am      Motor Off: 0:00 pm      Miles Traveled: 00      Stayed At: Anchor

First Things First: First blueberry muffins baked on the boat,; First time visiting dolphin by dinghy – very cool.

Mile to Mile: Its supposed to be a nice quiet night again so we decided to stay put and enjoy the relative peacefulness of Shell Island before we get to the marina where we plan to stay for the next month. We started the day with a special treat – fresh blueberry muffins. We are starting to figure out this baking oven and didn’t burn anything this time.

After reading for a while (I finished The Bourne Sanction – thanks Bill), we made a quick snack for lunch, put the motor on the dinghy and buzzed across the channel to an inviting sand sprit jutting out on the end of one of the barrier island protecting our little cove. Surprisingly, it was mostly made up of crushed oyster and clam shells. Lucky we had our water shoes on. But it was a nice break from the boat. We wandered along the shore exploring – Cindy hauled a few more shells back to the boat. We stopped at the bait boat and bought a few treats and chatted for a while before returning to Aurora. We are excited to see Jess and Sarah in a few days and can’t wait for our next adventures. Civilization, here we come.

Almost There

Day 105: Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Port to Port: Pelican Bay to Shell Island

Underway: 7:05 am      Motor Off: 12:05 pm      Miles Traveled: 27      Stayed At: Anchor

First Things First: First stilt houses; First bait/snack boat; First boat-made rice krispie bars – perfect as always.


Mile to Mile: Today seemed to fly by. We started the day with a special treat – we shared a farmers market grapefruit gifted to us by Spiritus the day we left Dunedin. We savored every juicy wedge and can’t wait to find a farmers market near the marina. We have been deprived of grapefruit and need to get our fix soon.

After motoring away from our quiet anchorage, we raised the mainsail to get a gentle boost from the steady breeze off our starboard side. Cindy read a great book out-loud as we motor sailed across Pine Island Sound towards Fort Myers. Before we knew it we turned in towards our chosen anchorage at Shell Island – right off the intracoastal waterway and only a little over 7 miles from Fort Myers – a perfect place to hang out for a couple of days before the hustle and bustle of civilization for the next month.

We anchored across the bay from an older cruising boat advertising live bait and food – Jasper’s Bait Boat. This is the first time we have seen this service on the water and it is an interesting business. In talking to the guy manning the boat, they have been doing this for a couple of months and experimenting with what to offer. Believe it of not, they are “open” 24 hours – their motto is “We may doze, but we never close”. It takes a special person to hang out 24 hours a day alone on a boat selling bait and snacks. It’s interesting that they are located at the “Miserable Mile” on the Caloosahatchee River. Why its called that is beyond me – I’ll have to Google it sometime.

It’s always interesting to see what Aurora does after we anchor. Normally, on lakes in Minnesota, Aurora would hang straight back downwind from the anchor. Here, who knows what direction she will like best. The wind was blowing pretty hard in the afternoon from the south but Aurora was laying at a 90 degree angle to the wind. The invisible tidal current was pulling her in a totally unexpected direction towards the island. The current can flow right through parts of the mangrove swamp surrounding the actual island. And in another 8 hours, we will be facing a totally different direction. Another unsolvable mystery.

The Wild Life

Day 104: Monday, December 17, 2012

Port to Port: Roberts Bay to Pelican Bay

Underway: 7:47 am      Motor Off: 3:47 pm      Miles Traveled: 35      Stayed At: Anchor


First Things First: First time paying more than $5.00 per gallon for marina gas (something to avoid in the future although the bucket of free ice made it a little less painful); First bikini girls.

Mile to Mile: We had planned a nice easy 22-mile day but we were making good time and travel conditions were ideal so we hammered out 13 more miles to get across two large bays – Gasparilla Sound and Charlotte Harbor. You never know what the weather will bring tomorrow. If fact the weather forecast for later this week has 25+ knot winds in it so we need to get closer to Fort Myers to feel comfortable.

The day wasn’t all work though. We did see our first boat full of bikini girls. On a Monday yet. We must be in Florida. I also saw another manatee but Cindy missed it. They only surface for a few seconds to breath and then go back under the dark water. Maybe tomorrow we’ll see more of both.

We never get tired of the wildlife (not that kind of wildlife). There are always birds, animals or fish to be seen. The pelicans are especially interesting to watch. They are incredibly efficient fisherman and flyers. Watching them glide effortlessly a few inches above the water is a treat. And then they will angle up to get a better view, stop in midair and dive bomb into the water with a big splash. I’d hate to be a fish in Florida – life is short and full of hazards from below and above.

Even with our extra mileage, we arrived at Pelican Bay well before dark and had an early dinner of leftovers and dinghied to the dock at the nearby state park – Cayo Costa – to try to watch the sunset across the Gulf. We started down the trail to the beach but decided we wouldn’t have time to walk over a mile to watch the sunset and get back to the boat before dark so we reluctantly returned to the boat to watch the sunset from Aurora. Maybe next time.

In Passing: Siesta Key, Crescent Beach, Siesta Stretch Point O’Rocks, Heron Lagoon, Coral Cove, Blind Pass, Bird Keys, Alligator Creek, Rambler Hole.

A New Routine

Day 103: Sunday, December 16, 2012

Port to Port: Longboat Key to Roberts Bay

Underway: 8:00 am      Motor Off: 2:45 pm      Miles Traveled: 29      Stayed At: Anchor

Mile to Mile: We are getting a little soft here in Florida. On the rivers, a 29 mile day would be a treat. Now, with less daylight and more traffic and bridges and civilization, 29 miles seems like a long day. We did take a short break and tied up along a wall across from Nokomis Beach and enjoyed a few minutes getting water and peeking out at the beautiful white sand beaches along the gulf. A nice break in an otherwise routine day. We are starting to get used to more boat traffic now that we are in New Florida. It’s a big adjustment over our experience over the last several months. The scenery is different too – lots of big houses and huge condo complexes just about everywhere you look.

Navigation is pretty easy. Just keep between the green and red markers and all is well (usually). You don’t want to stray too far out of the narrow channel though since most of the bays and channels making up the intracoastal are extremely shallow – 2 to 5 feet deep at low tide. Even in the channel, a stray shoal can show up unexpectedly causing the depth finder to beep its shallow water warning. It’s a continuous challenge to stay focused, keep on course, find the next marker, watch out for oncoming and overtaking traffic and enjoy the ride. (And did I mention all the crab pot floats?)

We anchored for the night in Roberts Bay near a public dock and dinghy beach at Venice Florida. The anchorage was well protected and quiet. After a quick dinner of beef tips and rice, we had a relaxing evening, read and enjoyed a pretty sunset. We could have fallen asleep at 7:30 pm (being outside all day in the wind, sun and fresh air does that to you) but we forced ourselves to stay up to 9:00 pm. We can’t get too soft can we. What would Jess and Sarah think?

In Passing: Ringling Bridge, Bird Key, Lido Key, South Coconut Bayou, Mangrove Cut.