Holy Mackerel

Day 161: Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Port to Port: Fort Myers Beach

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

Mile to Mile: We decided to get off our butts and go sailing today. The forecast was for sunny skies and winds of less than 10 mph – perfect sailing conditions. Going sailing is a little more involved than just starting the motor and heading out. We took the dinghy to the dinghy dock and secured it there. We made sure the Ipad and GPS were charged. We took the extra gas cans and cook kit off. We checked the charts so we could tell where there are shoals. We reran the jib sheets and took off the sail covers. We tested the motor to be sure it still was running good. We waited a little while for slack tide and, when everything was ready, we untied the seven lines holding us perfectly in the center of our slip and backed out into the channel. Now we are ready to sail.

We hadn’t been motoring up the channel for 5 minutes when we saw the first of several groups of dolphin heading in to feed. We never get tired watching them. The winds were a little light when we first got out of the channel but we were enjoying the gentle reach over towards Sanibel Island. Except for idiotic random crab pots (I do not understand why they are allowed in such busy traffic areas), conditions were perfect. I decided to try fishing again and, within 10 minutes had caught my first small Spanish mackerel. I kept fishing for a while and got a few strikes but no one held on for more than a few seconds. I might have to try fishing from the pier so we have enough fish for dinner.

The wind gradually increased along with the surf until it became a little to much like work to stay out there – it was amazing how much traffic there was for a Tuesday early afternoon. We took down the sails and headed back in about 1 pm. We docked without any problems, retied all our line, stowed the sails and cleaned the boat (its amazing how much of a mess one little fish flopping around can make). We’ll have to do that again.

Just A Normal Day

Day 160: Monday, February 11, 2013

Port to Port: Fort Myers Beach

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

Mile to Mile: We got up, had a cup of coffee, made oatmeal for breakfast (even though it is 70˚ and sunny), watched Richard and Sally paint the non-skid part of their boat, watched a movie, walked along the beach, went to the library, stopped at the grocery store, made leftover chicken sandwiches for lunch, worked on the blog and did some internet research, walked to Moss Marina and Times Square to look for Fort Myers Beach T-shirts, had strawberries and ice cream at McDonalds, made leftover beef stew and fresh green beans for dinner, talked to GMA, watched a movie, watched another movie, talked to Jim on the phone and went to bed. How was your day.

Actually, today was not a totally normal day – we normally don’t have time to watch three movies in one day but we decided to take a break and be lazy today. We are going to get a little busier now as we get ready to head for Fort Myers next Wednesday. It will be very weird leaving our home of 2 months but we will definitely be back someday – hopefully by boat again.

We saw both Pete and Re-Pete on the dock today when Tony, the fishing guide came in with his catch. Normally the pelicans take center stage but today they followed a different boat into a marina across the channel and only Pete and Re-Pete were waiting patiently for scraps. Pete is a beautiful great white egret who is so famous around here that his story appears on the Matanzas Restaurant menu. He has been hanging around since 1984 – first stealing shrimp from the shrimpers and later getting fed shrimp or scraps from fishing boats. His side-kick is a smaller snowy egret that has been hanging around for at least 5 years. They both protect their little piece of paradise and keep out most competition except for the pelicans. They are very photogenic too.

Lover’s Key

Day 159: Sunday, February 10, 2013

Port to Port: Fort Myers Beach

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

First Things First: First time making Marilyn’s Special Chip Dip in the rice cooker.

Mile to Mile: We didn’t know it when we got up this morning but today was a perfect day to bike ride along the beach and over San Carlos Pass bridge to Lover’s Key State Park. Lover’s Key is the next island south of Estero Island. Most of the island is park land with bike trails, walking trails, kayak rental and beautiful, quiet, white sandy beaches all along the western shore.

The ride down was slow but easy since we biked along the beachfront in the hard packed sand along the high tide line almost 3/4 of the way to the bridge. Thankfully, there is a reasonably wide paved shoulder at this end of the island so biking is much safer and easier. We spent a couple hours biking around the park, eating a picnic lunch and exploring the beach before heading back home. We stopped at Publix on the way back to get a few essentials and were amazed that, on a Sunday afternoon, the traffic was already backed up, and almost at a dead stop, all the way down to here from the bridge up by the marina – almost 3 miles of solid cars. It was kind of fun to go whizzing past the stopped traffic all the way back to the marina. And it will only get worse next month when the Spring Break season starts. Yikes!

As I mentioned, we have had to start some long range planning for later this year. This morning I ordered and paid our fees for using the Trent Severn Canal System next summer. The price for a one way season pass including mooring fees was $384   The price is supposedly going to go up significantly so it makes sense to get the season locked in early. We will be spending at least three weeks transiting all 44 locks and exploring this wonderful area in Ontario Canada. Our pass includes the cost of tying up at the locks at night if we want too.

After cleaning the grime and sand off of us, we made taco salad and strawberry margaritas for dinner and enjoyed the second part of Avatar for movie night. We should sleep good tonight.

Minnesota/Florida Friends Ahoy

Day 158: Saturday, February 9, 2013

Port to Port: Fort Myers Beach

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

Mile to Mile: We have visitors coming today so it’s time to clean. We cleaned the boat yesterday – today we need clean laundry and clean people. Cindy gets annoyed with me but I like to get these things done as early as possible so I was up, showered, with the laundry done and the blog updated to yesterday before 9 am. There is no line for the showers and the laundry is empty and quiet at this time of the morning making it a lot more efficient getting things done. It’s always a nice feeling when everything is done and we can play the rest of the day.

Our friends from  Florida, Cliff and Caroline, drove down from Sarasota to explore Fort Myers Beach. They have sold their house in Minnesota and are moving to Florida permanently – one of those exciting and stressful life transitions. We decided to make lunch on the boat – lots cheaper and more fun to hang out and relax on the boat than eating out all the time. We enjoyed BBQ chicken sandwiches, baked beans chips and a fruit plate while sipping vodka lemonade slushy’s and listening to the live music from Nervous Nellies. Remember, we are “roughing” it.

We took Bosun, their cute furry white Coton de Tulear, for a walk along the beach and sat and enjoyed another amazing sunset sitting in the sand sharing stories. The long walk made us thirsty so we returned to Aurora and sat and finished off a large bottle of wine (much better to share than drink by ourselves) and wandered up to Nervous Nellies to get an couple of appetizers and cap a wonderful visit with a toast. We are already looking forward to visiting them again in a couple of weeks in Fort Myers. It’s weird to think they are going to be permanent Florida residents now.

Work Day

Day 157: Friday, February 8, 2013

Port to Port: Fort Myers Beach

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

First Things First: First Chinese buffet of trip – very good deal.

Mile to Mile: We were signed up to help load and unload boxes of books this morning so we walked down to the library to get a ride to the storage building. The tasks went very quickly and we soon had the truck filled, driven back to the library and unloaded before 11 am. They only have 15 more loads to go. We stopped at a nearby Chinese buffet recommended by Boomerang and walked home to clean the boat.

It is amazing how much stuff wants to grow on the bottom of the boat – especially in areas without bottom paint. We will probably have to have the bottom scraped before we leave but I wanted to get the ugly stuff off and clean the water line so we don’t look like a derelict boat. We scrubbed the deck and cockpit and were soon bright and shiny again.

The pressure is building to get ready to move again. Someone has already rented our slip so we have to find a new home. We are planning to spend a week in Fort Myers before heading through Lake Okeechobee and on to Stuart. This is the normal intracoastal route and it makes more sense for us to go this way than all the way to the Keys and back up – the route down is unprotected and remote and might be a little tricky for our size boat. We hope to have time to rent a car and drive to the Keys and explore for a few days after we get to the east coast.

Have I mentioned the weather has been amazing. We had a front move through yesterday and we got a little rain overnight but woke to a beautiful sunrise and warm temps again this morning. We’ve been very lucky so far this trip.

You Have Mail

Day 156: Thursday, February 7, 2013

Port to Port: Fort Myers Beach

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

First Things First: First time making beef stew in rice cooker.

Mile to Mile: It was an active morning for the local fire department and rescue squad. We hear sirens probably 6 times per day at least – well this morning the sirens started early. Although there is a station on the island, the ambulance and fire engines also come from a station about a mile over the bridge. It turns out, a garbage truck caught fire at the Red Coconut Mobile Home Park down past the library and was still smoldering 2 hours after we first heard the sirens. It was a total loss and also burned down one of the homes in the park. Traffic near the area was a nightmare at 9 am in the morning.

We took advantage of another free guided tour this morning – this time of the Matanzas Pass Preserve. We have already wandered through the park but it was fun to learn about some of the history of the park and why it is so special. The park packs a lot of nature into only 60 acres. On our way to the park we could see the smoke from the fire to the south and saw the remnants of a car crash where someone crashed into a small city street sweeper tipping it over, totaling their car and sending everyone to the hospital – idiots. I can’t figure out how someone can get into that bad of an accident on extremely congested roads where traffic seldom can go faster than 25 mph.

The guided tour was excellent and we also wandered through a small museum with pictures and information on the history of Fort Myers Beach. Wandering these parks takes on a whole new dimension when you actually know what to look for and how everything fits into the surrounding ecosystem.

I got mail today – Jess and Sarah sent me some welcome homemade treats for my birthday. Perfect timing since the treats Cindy brought back from her trip to Arizona are basically gone. Thanks girls.

Even though it is warm and sunny, we are making beef stew in the rice cooker. We have some stew meat that we need to use. We threw browned beef, some red potatoes and carrots with water and let it cook for almost two hours – it turned out perfect. This rice cooker cooking is amazingly easy and you only dirty one pan. It’s always nice when an appliance can be used for multiple applications.

Happy Birthday to Me

Day 155: Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Port to Port: Fort Myers Beach

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

First Things First: First birthday with no snow (warm sunshine sounds a lot better).

Mile to Mile: What a fun birthday. We started the day by walking with Sally and Richard over to the Otsego Bay Foundation Marine Science Center to take part in their guided tour of the museum and shrimp docks. The museum is small and runs on a tiny budget but packs a lot of interesting exhibits into a small space. Betty, our guide and the vice president of the museum, was a bundle of energy in a small package. She has lived in Fort Myers Beach for 50+ years and is actively involved in the community. They had exhibits on everything from ship wrecks to fish to seashells to fossil mammoth. You could even touch a small stingray or flounder in their small touch pool.

The best part of the tour was the shrimp docks. What an interesting and tough way to make a living. The guys on these boats are typically away from home for almost a month at a time and they travel thousands of miles – usually all the way to the Yucatan or Texas chasing shrimp. They do not go to shore but live on the boat 24/7 and normally fish at night when the shrimp come out of the sand on the bottom. They return to port once a month to unload, restock and repair before going out again. The shrimp are flash frozen on the boat and stored in the hold of the boat that is one big freezer. Only three people typically man these boats.

We saw the net repair area where some new nets were being made and the shrimp processing equipment which sizes and sorts the shrimp before they are refrozen, boxed and shipped all over the country. There were pallet loads of 50 lb bags of shrimp waiting to be processed. I have a new appreciation for the work that goes into getting those shrimp from the Gulf to our BBQ. I wonder if they would miss a bag?

That was just our morning. We made it back to the marina in time to enjoy their BBQ for the dock residents and some of the Inn residents – BBQ hamburgers, hot dogs, fixings, and beer. On a warm, sunny day overlooking the water. What great timing – just in time for my birthday. We sat around and enjoyed the party until mid afternoon before returning to Aurora to rest and relax. Thanks girls for the Happy Birthday messages. I’m looking forward to the mail in the next couple of days. Thanks GMG and GMA for the cards and $$ – I’m sure I can find a good use for the gifts. And thanks Cindy for the surprise caramel treats and angel food cake and strawberries. Let’s see, what could we celebrate tomorrow?

Whole Lot of Learnin’ Goin’ On

Day 154: Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Port to Port: Fort Myers Beach

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

Mile to Mile: After the $2.99 breakfast special at the Lani Kai (on the roof overlooking the beach) we walked up the beach to Bowditch Park to go on a volunteer guided walking tour of the park. The volunteer guiding the tour was from Minnesota and now lives in Florida 8 months of the year. His tour was funny and educational at the same time. We learned a lot about the plant and animal life in the park and the history of Estero Island. I now know the difference between red, black and white mangroves – that should be useful someday. We also learned a lot about barrier islands – how they form, how they continuously change and how important they are to the environment. The knowledge we gained answered some questions we had and will make future walks much more interesting. And it was free. And it was sunny. And warm. What a nice way to spend a couple of hours in the morning.

And the learnin’ wasn’t over for the day. We stopped by the boat for a few minutes and then walked down to the library to drop off some movies and listen to a presentation on Fossils in Florida. Bill, the President of the Fossil Club of Lee County talked a bit about the prehistoric history of Florida and then did a show and tell of some of the fossils he has found in and around the area – mastadon teeth, horse teeth, megalodon (giant shark) teeth, bones of sloths, panthers and bears – all extinct and some millions of years old. Very cool – I want to find a megalodon tooth. He finds most of them in gravel deposits in local rivers. Nice guy and fun presentation.

In case anybody is interested, the family on OmarSea – the sailboat that was moored here for awhile – has arrived safely in Panama and are exploring the area, fixing things that broke on the crossing (something will always fail or break at sea) and preparing to transit the Panama Canal this week on their way to the Galapagos Islands. If you want to follow their adventures, their blog is at http://omarsea.blogspot.com/. Their post for today is hilarious.

“No Plans” Day

Day 153: Monday, February 4, 2013

Port to Port: Fort Myers Beach

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

First Things First: First dinghy tour of Estero Bay.

Mile to Mile: We woke up today with no real plans and no pressing projects. It’s a really weird feeling not having anything that we have to do. (There are lots of things we could do but we can let them simmer for a while longer). It’s also very easy to get lazy when you are in one place for a long time. It takes work to explore and find interesting things to do. It’s, of course, another beautiful sunny day in FMB, so sailing sounded like a promising idea until I checked the wind forecast and the highest winds expected were going to be about 5 mph – drifting would not be my idea of a fun day so on to Option B. We have wanted to take a dinghy tour of the area to explore some of the channels, check out the boats in the mooring field and get an up close look at the shrimp docks across from us. So a dinghy tour it is.

I rowed the dinghy over to the dinghy dock for easier access, put a little air in the tubes, put the life preservers and cushion in the boat, untied the motor from its storage spot on the port side deck of Aurora and gassed up the motor before hauling it over to the dinghy dock and mounting it. (Like I said, exploring takes work although with sunny skies and temps in the mid 70’s I’m not complaining). We packed up a few things to bring with, the motor started the first pull and off we went on our 3-hour tour.

Of course, we had a blast. Cindy drove while I took pictures. Within 10 minutes, we saw our first dolphins – this time a mother and her baby. How cool is that? It was amazing how quiet and peaceful it was just a few blocks off the main drag. I can see why so many people like living in these channel communities. A fair amount on new construction is going on in what was the worse real estate market in the US. The economy is definitely growing down here and could be poised for a big growth spurt over the next few years. Hopefully we learned what not to do (probably not) this time around.

After our leisurely scenic tour we returned to the Marina and went for a long walk along the beach. Even though it is high season right now, the beach was fairly quiet and uncrowded – just like we like it. We stopped at the grocery store for a few essentials and walked home to make dinner. After a long hard day with no plans, we grilled burgers and enjoyed a mini watermelon, some veggies and chips. Tomorrow is another “no plans” day so we’ll see what new adventures it brings.

A Super Day

Day 152: Sunday, February 3, 2013

Port to Port: Fort Myers Beach

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

First Things First: First time making oatmeal in rice cooker; first time making nachos in rice cooker.

Mile to Mile: It’s been a little cool in the morning lately so oatmeal has sounded good but is a pain to make on the cookstove. So we tried making it in the rice cooker and it turned out great. We need to adjust the amount of water and cooking time a little but we will try that again for sure (it only took us 5 months to figure that out).

We decided to explore the area on the other side of the bridge a little more (believe it or not but the beach can get a little boring if you walk it everyday). We wandered by lots of marinas, mobile home parks, restaurants and vacant lots – a little bit of old Florida hoping someday to become the new Florida. We’ll see how long that takes.

We came back and didn’t watch football (actually we watched a little of the game but it looked bad for San Francisco so we watched one of our library DVD’s instead). We enjoyed some simple nachos heated in the rice cooker with the movie (this worked better than we expected and now Cindy is searching the internet for other things to cook that way). We were really surprised to see that SF almost came back by the end and thought of Jess being in SF – Sarah and Jake are going out to visit her next weekend which should be a blast. We’ll be there in spirit.

Plans, What Plans

Day 151: Saturday, February 2, 2013

Port to Port: Fort Myers Beach

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

Mile to Mile: Happy Birthday Linda. We’ll have to celebrate the next time we cross paths. Save some cake (and beer and chicken wings) for us.

We had big plans today – go to a pancake breakfast and go to the grand opening BBQ for a local marina. We went 0 for 2 today. We tried to get a trolley ride to the pancake breakfast but it never showed up. Oh well, we saved $3.50 each plus the trolley ride (and the extra calories) and we still have a backup plan – the marina BBQ. After doing some boat projects in the morning, we walked a couple miles down the beach to the Snook Bight Marina and found a long line of people waiting to pay $5 to get in another long line to wait for food. The hamburgers and chicken wings looked and smelled amazing but they were not at all prepared for the number of people who came out for cheap food on a nice sunny day. After over an hour wait to get armbands we moved to the food line and waited another 40 minutes without moving 10 feet and decided to bail out. It didn’t help that people kept cheating and bringing friends into the line ahead of other people. Oh well. We saved another $5 each and got a free suntan waiting in line (that’s, of course, not what I was thinking while the line was creeping along).

On to Plan C. We went to Publix and for the same amount we would have spent at the Marina, bought an amazing chicken strip sub basket and sat on a bench in the sun enjoying our lunch.

We took a sunny, leisurely walk back to the boat along the beach. The beach has an amazing calming effect. I have no idea what we did the rest of the afternoon, but we cooked leftover beef tips and rice for dinner, watched a movie and slept soundly.

A Date With Lincoln

Day 150: Friday, February 1, 2013

Port to Port: Fort Myers Beach

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

First Things First: First time having a beer at a movie theatre.

Mile to Mile: After a quieter than expected night (the wind shifted a little more to the west which is more protected) we walked to the library to help move books from their storage facility to the new library. They called me earlier this week to see if we could help out this morning. You know you’ve been somewhere a while when people are calling you to volunteer. Lots of people showed up so the task went very fast and were done by a little after 11 am – plenty of time to hope a trolley down to the Beach Theatre to see Lincoln. Example number 42 of how small a world it is – one of the couples waiting for the bus across from the library have grandkids who play hockey at Mound Westonka and live in Minnetrista – what are the odds.

Lincoln was a great movie. Even though you sort of know the history, seeing the characters brought to life in this way was enlightening. Politics hasn’t changed much in 150 years except now everyone has a chance to play the game versus just white men and it probably costs more to get the votes.

We walked back to the marina again – this time along the beach. Did I mention it was warm and sunny again? The beach was actually very quiet for a Friday and watching out for the waves working their way to high tide is a lot more peaceful than watching out for cars, bikes and other pedestrians on the sidewalk.

We finally put the dinghy back in the water – the rubber paint on the back has had a couple of days to cure. Hopefully that will last for a while and solve most of the water problems.

We have no plans tomorrow but there is a grand opening at a marina south of us where for $5 you can get all the wings and hamburgers you can eat with the proceeds going to a local environmental charity. Or, for $3.50, a local mobile home park is having an all you can eat pancake breakfast. Decisions, decisions. Thankfully, we don’t have the future of the nation on our shoulders.