The Skinny Okeechobee Waterway

April 20-23, 2017

Miles traveled:   81

Total miles traveled: 3496

We left Sanibel and headed the short distance across beautiful San Carlos Bay (Sanibel bridge to our port and the open Gulf to our starboard) toward the Fort Myers Yacht Basin marking the beginning of the Caloosahatchee River heading east across Florida via the Okeechobee Waterway and to the Atlantic.  While in Fort Myers we took a restful couple of days including an early morning walk over the Edison bridge accompanied by several dozen Fort Myers police academy recruits in training – not walking.  They couldn’t have been more pleasant to us, even when Sammy wandered onto their half of the bridge walkway.  We then went onto First Street for breakfast at the United Ale House passing by the FM Police Chief being interviewed on TV which felt like we were on the set of Blue Bloods!  Next stop was the Farmers Market along the waterway where we purchased plums, peaches, oranges (of course) and strawberries.  Some of the best ever!  We also did piles of laundry and endless boat shopping.

IMG_4245

Fort Myers Yacht Basin from the Edison Bridge

IMG_4252

The Edison Bridge we shared with the police recruits.  Note the bridge bumpers extending to the right of the bridge into the water.  This is the passageway for boats to follow.

fullsizeoutput_8aee

Right, we really are going to fit?

We now have three boat travel days left between FM and Indiantown (our Florida home port) and probably some of the most stressful of the season.  The water levels are the lowest in recent years (skinny water) as there is a drought in SW Florida – some describing it as a tinderbox!  Jim called the Army Corp. of Engineers for their take on the situation and learned that the very shallowest point on the waterway is 5.85’ and we need 5’ therefore we hope to have at least .85’ under the keel while in the channel!  This does not include shifting and shoaling of sand so not much margin for error.  Captain says no-problemo, I say drama and adventure!

Leaving Fort Myers early, so as to enjoy as much cool air as possible, we had the channel all to ourselves but the sun rose in our eyes heading east for “April First’s” dock near Labelle Florida.  It was a lovely and uneventful morning raising six bridges, easily passing through the Franklin lock and getting happily secured in the Ortona lock, the last before reaching our destination.  At just the moment we took a deep sigh of relief, we noticed another sailboat proceeding at a pretty good clip approaching the lock from behind and needing to secure in front of us against the wall.  Looks like trouble to me!  They waved as they bumped their bow sprint into the cement wall, tried to grab lines, and scraped their starboard side heralded by a terrible screeching sound – perhaps the worst lock entrance we have seen yet.  They finally got a hold of bow and stern lines but because they were so far forward in the lock where the water enters, they experienced considerable current and turbulence.  Because we were lifting, they could have secured the lines to a cleat but chose not to observe good physics and instead were required to use brute strength to keep their boat in place.  Through nonverbal communication we were highly concerned that if they let go, they would instantly be drifting into the Namaste’s bow.  It was not a pretty picture but all’s well that ends well and everyone exited the lock reasonably unscathed and we completed our day.

The evening, tied to the dock behind April and Dean’s house (see previous post) next to River Forest, could not have been more lovely.  In fresh water now we saw a 12’ alligator swimming the channel in mid-afternoon right behind the Namaste.  My second real sighting.  We napped, had dinner, went for a long walk in their neighborhood and slept for 9 solid hours. This morning we bid these wonderful people farewell, learning that it was Dean’s birthday so they are enjoying a pound of Biggby coffee.  Side note:  both were born and raised in Cheboygan Michigan and raised three children in a geodesic dome there.

fullsizeoutput_8b1e

April and Dean on their deck as we say good-bye for now.

The space was tight but Captain Jim got turned around and we were easily on our way.  Somewhere after passing under the highway bridge, railroad swing bridge (we heard the train whistle in the distance), and the Moore Haven lock (easy), I was at the helm, following the magenta line on the chart plotter.  I glanced at the depth gauge for a reading and saw 4.2’  Not enough!!  Yes, that fast we were aground and quite stuck in the mud!  Thankfully it was a calm part of the river but with enough traffic that we knew we wouldn’t be stranded forever.  Captain Jim tried reverse while moving the bow back and forth with the bow-thruster.  Nope!  Next he used the boat hook in an attempt to push us backward off the bottom while I manned the helm in reverse.  Nope!  Finally, our trusty dinghy and her 6 hp engine pulled us right off and back to free water.  We had been too far right in the channel.  Who knew??

There were great photo ops along the way today balancing out the grounding episode.

fullsizeoutput_8b1d

If you look closely in the center you will see two birds.  A large Egret and a smaller Green Heron standing together on watch.

fullsizeoutput_8b34

A Great Blue Heron flying to our port

 

fullsizeoutput_8b35

Saturday riders to our starboard

Three separate alligator sightings today!  Getting much better at spotting them and now I am at 5!  Jim has many more.

On to Clewiston was a tense but uneventful trip.  Sammy is tied and Jim is sound asleep in his cockpit hammock.  The dock master warned us that an alligator was spying Sammy!

Sammy Sayz:  They don’t think I know that our sailing season is quickly coming to an end but I understand every word they say.  I will be happy to come home and see everyone but. . .

IMG_4290

. . .I’m gonna miss the wind in my face and living outside!

 

Quote of the Day:  “Not crossing Lake “O” today!”  -Captain Jim

fullsizeoutput_8b4b

Good Boat Name:  “WETEVER” (Ron and Vicki’s new Pontoon boat in Wisconsin)

Bad Boat Name:  “Elephant”

Happy Birthday to:  Norma

 

Easter on Cabbage Key

April 16 – 19, 2017

Miles traveled:   53 miles

Total miles traveled: 3427

After chatting with family, we sadly left Pelican Bay on Easter Sunday about noon as we had reservations for dinner at the Inn on Cabbage Key, just 5 or so miles south.  Before we left, however, a fisherman demonstrated net fishing as schools of Red Finn Herring were swimming all around the Namaste.  They are a silver bait-fish that everyone up the food chain enjoys, surely bad news for the Red Finn Herring!  We then took a last dinghy ride to the beach where we met Rick and Mary who will begin their Loop on “Exhale” from Fort Myers in January.  Likely and hopefully we will meet again!

 

IMG_4066

IMG_4081

Rick and Mary with Sammy’s friend Mattie from onboard “Exhale” at the Pelican Bay Beach

We were in need of showers and power for the refrigerator so we up-anchored and carefully followed directions getting into the skinny water marina at Cabbage Key.  What a place!  It is truly a family owned, old Florida resort having been built in 1936.  Twenty-two employees live on island and the remainder take the Ferry to and from Fort Myers and Cape Coral.  An inn, restaurant, cottages, water tower, nature trail, basketball net and marina adorn the island and we took advantage of it all over the twenty hours we visited.  One of the fascinating traditions is that there is $70,000 in dollar bills (estimated 20 years ago) taped to the restaurant walls.  Back in the day, fisherman came for a beer after a good catch but taped $1 on the wall for the next time when the catch wasn’t as good.  When the money falls off the walls, as it must, they stuff it – tape and all –  into plastic bags and donate about $12,000/ year to a local charity.  Of course we tagged a dollar with Namaste and taped it above the water tower door in case you ever happen to visit!

IMG_4106

Cabbage Key Inn and Restaurant

IMG_4122

Namaste happily at the Cabbage Key dock.

IMG_4123

The Namaste loves palms!

IMG_4142

Dinner among $70,000

Our dinner was beyond impressive:  great cocktails (Cabbage Creepers), unusual menu selections, great biscuits, large portions, and Key Lime pie!  Overnight rates are reasonable and all rooms are air conditioned.  They serve between 600 and 650 people for lunch 365 days a year, all arriving by boat!!  We got there after lunch and left after breakfast (which is served in the bar at 7:00 a.m.) so we had the island to ourselves.  In fact by 7:30 p.m. another sailboat and the Namaste were the only vessels in the marina and we enjoyed the nature trail alone the following morning.  We say, get on a ferry or rent a boat and go to Cabbage Key!

IMG_4118

Dressed for Easter dinner

IMG_4156

Water Tower on Cabbage Key Trail.  Note the Osprey looking at us with her two babies.

IMG_4148

View from the water tower below the Osprey just after sunrise

On we go to Sanibel Island and a marina near the SE tip.  This isn’t a usual Looper stop as it is off the GIWW but Vicki and Ron liked it last year so we are here and not disappointed.  By-the-way, we are having phone docktales with them late this afternoon!  Today is a welcome relief of overcast skies and rain predicted although radar shows nothing.  We spent a quick morning washing the salt spray off the Namaste (Jim), doing a load of laundry and scrubbing the cockpit cushions of salt, sand, sunscreen, and spilled coffee (me).  The reward being a mile or so walk to the Sanibel Lighthouse Point Beach. A Gopher Turtle was our highlight who we saw meandering in the grass above the beach.  Now we will explore the channels by dinghy and call it a day.

IMG_4185

Big adult gopher turtle

IMG_4191

Last day at the beach for winter 2017

IMG_4204

Mile marker “0” – south end of Sanibel Island

IMG_4211

This was our last day at the beach as tomorrow we begin our trek north to Fort Myers (no beach) and then back through the Caloosahatchee River, Lake Okechobee and back to Indiantown.  Fun ahead but no beaches!  Looking forward to Dunham Lake, Lake Charlevoix, Lower Herring Lake and Lake Michigan!

IMG_4229

Saw this floating bar, we think, on our way from Sanibel to Fort Myers today.  Too early for customers.

Quote of the Day:  “Did you know that Easter has a different date every year because it’s based on the moon phases.  In 325 CE, Constantine I led a council of Christian Bishops who decided that Easter must always be a Sunday to honor the resurrection of Jesus.  They also said it would immediately follow, but not land on, the first full moon after the Spring Equinox, which is why the date can fall anywhere between Marrch 22 and April 25.” – Did you Know

Good Boat Name:  “Exhale”  (on a gorgeous 49’ North Pacific Trawler)

Bad Boat Name: “Assisted Living”  (No comment)

Happy Birthday to:  Norma

Congratulations to Lexi, she is a Spartan!!!

IMG_4232

    

 

 

 

Pelican Island to Venice and Back

April 9 – 15, 2017

Miles traveled:  84 miles

Total miles traveled: 3374

My last post described our travel to Pelican Bay where we floated at anchor for three beautiful days.  This may be one of our favorite stops of the trip:  much like Put-in-Bay except anchors instead of mooring balls; a state park instead of restaurants/bars and tomato soup instead of lobster bisque.  Debbie and Tom – thinking of you!!

Pelican Bay is several hundred yards off the GIWW located between an uninhabited island and Cayo Costa giving excellent protection from wind and waves.  One of many highlights of our stay here was a 3 mile hike into the mangroves across the island to a totally secluded beach on the other side that looks out onto Boca Grande Pass and the Gulf.  We kept Sammy on a short leash as we were constantly on the look-out for snakes and alligators, thankfully we saw neither.

IMG_3926

Three mile hike in Cayo Costa State Park

IMG_3934

Another gorgeous sunset from the beach of the uninhabited island where Jim cleaned the dinghy bottom.

Of the fifty or so boats anchored here, two of are particular note.  First, we met Loopers Jim and Linda on board “Leilani” from Annapolis with whom we shared some great laughs.  Meeting them late one afternoon they wondered why in the world we had been spinning in circles at anchor earlier.  Surely there was a good reason?  Well, no!  Jim had accidentally left the boat in gear (button pushed in) when running the engine to generate power for the refrigerator.  This resulted in several 360 degree spins around the anchor before we noticed as we were below deck.  We were all amazed that the anchor held and that later we were actually able to raise it out of the sand.  Second, we watched a sailboat enter the bay ultimately realizing it was Dean and April originally from Cheboygan, MI on board “Aprilfirst”.  This was a boat we knew from our unplanned stay at River Forest for repairs months ago.  They live across the canal from the marina and offered us their dock (for free) as we travel back to Lake Okeechobee at the end of the month.  People are amazingly generous!

After more-than-a-slight kiss of the bottom we left Pelican Bay headed for Englewood and Venice.  The first night we anchored just off Lemon Bay and had nacho dinner at Flounders.  The second night we planned to stop at Fisherman’s Warf in Venice but they could not accommodate us so we went on to the Crow’s Nest in N. Venice.  This was an interesting place offering some of the best showers, a great restaurant and easy access to the Gulf and beaches where we saw perhaps our most spectacular sunset of the season. We also met Wally and Martha on board “Blue Wing” with whom we shared their hair-raising experience of entering a narrow and obstructed slip next to us at high cross-current at the Venice inlet from the Gulf.  After half a dozen tries resulting in frantically backing off, Wally got sideways to the current, drifted across until he was even with the slip and then gave it enough power to enter and get a line on – not easy nor pretty but they were safely docked.  We shared dinner together offering our accolades and recounting the story over and over!  At some point we remembered meeting Wally while on the mooring balls in Naples.  Wally and Martha were delightful!  However, the barge that was pounding posts for a new marina dock was not so we moved back to Fisherman’s Warf as we bid good-by to Blue Wing who was leaving for their home near Clearwater.

IMG_3957

The Venice Inlet – look carefully an you can see the turbulence from the current

IMG_3959

Jim and Sammy patiently waiting for me as dogs weren’t allowed on the jetty

IMG_3971

My favorite sunset picture this year at the Venice inlet heading out to the Gulf as the sun set!

The object of our trip back to Venice this year was my continued sleuth-work and interest in finding my grandparent’s home where they retired in the mid-1950’s and perhaps seeing my parent’s home in Englewood where they retired in 1975.  Another thought was to visit Sharron Bourget who was our Dunham Lake neighbor for many years and currently lives near my parent’s home and daily enjoys the beach that we visited often during the 70’s and 80’s.

We never did find my grandparent’s house but walked four miles in the neighborhood we believed was theirs.  By-the-way, Venice has some of the best shopping we have enjoyed on the Loop!    After connecting on FB, we met Sharron at the Fisherman’s Wharf for lunch.  It was truly a perfect afternoon of shared memories (Mark and Pat playing hockey and  Mike and Michelle off to Kindergarten on the bus) as well as catching up with 20+ years of life.  Sharron thoughtfully asked if there was anything we would like to see or do.  She was reading my mind, as I have been wanting to drive past my parent’s home and walk on her/their beach.  As we are both early risers, Sharron picked me up at 7 a.m. and we found 400 Oriental Poppy Dr. before sunrise followed by a long slow walk along the beautiful Manasota Beach sharing more great memories and life experiences.  Upon my return to the boat, Captain Jim and the Namaste were ready to cast-off from Venice raising six bridges on our way back to Pine Island Sound and Pelican Bay.  Sharon was waiting for us at the Manasota Bridge (the one my mom and dad crossed hundreds of times) and captured the Namaste on an amazing video.  Thanks for everything Sharron!

IMG_3983

Lunch and lots of laughs with Sharron.  A moment when time goes backward.

IMG_4002

IMG_4013

A long walk on Manasota beach early after visiting Japanese Gardens where my parents lived for twenty years.

IMG_3994

Fisherman’s Wharf from the Venice Avenue Bridge

IMG_4019

Sharron taking a video of us as we went under the Manasota Bridge heading south on the GIWW

Sammy Sayz:  I am so enjoying running on the beaches, even though the salt water does crazy things with my hair.  Jo Ann says I look like a rag-a-muffin but I think I look pretty good.  Thanks Sharron for sneaking me out for early morning beach-time and all the loving hugs!  

IMG_4025

 

Quote of the Day:  “To have a friend and to be a friend is what makes life worthwhile.”  unknown

Question of the day:  Have you ever lost a book while you were reading it?

Good Boat Name:  “Be Well”

Bad Boat Name:  “Hauling Grass” (pretty sure they don’t mean sea grass)

Happy Birthday to:  Jen (belated), Emily (today)

One Day in the Traveling Life of Namaste

April 8, 2017

Miles traveled:  13

Total miles traveled:  3289

Several people have asked me what an average day is like on the Namaste so I have randomly selected today, Saturday April 8th to share perhaps more detail than you might want.

7:30 a.m.

Awoke to the rising sun, brisk temps and bright skies – no alarm!  We make the coffee the night before so all I had to do was light the propane stove and wait the 15 minutes it takes to perk – that’s right we use our new $22 stove-top percolator because an electric drip pot takes up too much real estate and is useless when at anchor.  Jim walked Sammy and paid the rent (way over budget) and upon his return we checked our three weather sources deciding this was the day to leave South Seas Resort on Captiva Island.  Jim also made-up the v-berth consisting of a thick v-shaped mattress pad, two sleeping bags, two sheets and two pillows.  Mostly we sleep on top with just the sheets but last night crawling into the bags felt beyond cozy. I cleaned up the cabin and made myself presentable. We did our morning exercise routine of balance, stretches, bands, and steps but didn’t eat breakfast, always a mistake. but neither of us is hungry on travel mornings. Biggby coffee is best.

IMG_3891

fullsizeoutput_8950

Cleaned up and ready for the day!

8:30 a.m.

Last night Captain Jim created the route on his iPad using an app called Garmin Blue Charts with the Active Captain overlay.  We decided on a short trip of 13 miles north to Pelican Bay across from Charlotte Harbor and at the tip of Cayo Costa Island where a Florida State Park of the same name is located.  The Waterway Guide describes it as the best anchorage in southwest Florida and not to be missed.  We went over the trip plan and then proceeded to get the Namaste ready to depart.  This includes: start the engine, turn on and check all instruments, take off the water hose and electric cord, close hatches, run bilge pump, check oil and fuel, and stow anything that might move about during rough water.  I email Curt with a float plan of exactly where we are, where we are headed and our ETA and then our actual arrival time and place.  This serves two purposes, hopefully he will know if we do not arrive plus at the end of the trip we will have an accurate record of all travel days, times and places.  Finally, we create a cast-off plan which was slightly more complicated today due to the wind direction – blowing us against the dock.  We both knew exactly which lines to release when, where the dinghy should be, who would be at the helm (Jim) and who would be working the lines (me).  It worked perfectly without dockside assistance and we cast off at  9:15 a.m. saying good-by and thank you for the wonderful stay on Captiva.

fullsizeoutput_894d

9:30 a.m.

The route required us to follow a narrow and winding channel back out to the ICWW (Inter-coastal Water Way) where we met a beautiful ketch almost identical to the Namaste, named “Lark”.  There aren’t too many of these around, particularly down here.  Both boats put up their yankee and mizzen sails and followed the channel to Cabbage Key where the course turned us directly North into the wind.  You cannot sail (nor should you pee) into the wind so down came the sails and with the motor running we ultimately passed and waved to Lark.   Delightfully, on this waterway there is always something to look at up ahead or coming from behind.  When it is a short travel day Jim does most of the helm work with me taking pictures, managing Sammy, checking Facebook, putting on sunscreen, getting more coffee.  Tough work but somebody has to do it.

IMG_3885

Sailing with Lark

12:00

We knew that getting into Pelican Bay would be tricky and were hoping for some local knowledge, ie., follow a local boat. It worked as we followed a larger boat within 75 feet of the shore arriving in the middle of the Bay where we easily anchored with me at the helm and Jim feeding out anchor chain.  The hard part about anchoring is deciding exactly where to drop the hook.  You must be far enough from all other boats and shallow water that your boat can swing 360 degrees and not hit anything or go aground.   We are in about 7.7’ of water with two feet variance of tide over 12 hours.  This requires 50’ of scope (30’ of heavy chain and 20’ of ¾” anchor line) as the winds are predicted to increase tonight.  For the next couple hours we stayed aboard checking and recording the GPS position every 15 minutes to make certain that the anchor is holding.  It was! Now starving, I made lunch of sandwiches and fruit quickly opening and closing the refrigerator as it is a huge drain on the batteries so is turned off unless the motor is running.

Anchorage is on the left and beach on the right

2:00 p.m.

All seemed well with the anchor so we three piled into the dinghy for some exploration.   Our first stop was the State Park dock on the far west side of the bay.  The only way to access this beautiful park is by boat and we saw at least 3 ferry/tour type boats arrive with passengers mostly boy and girl scout troops with mounds of camping equipment.  Upon arrival we found not only a good dinghy and small boat dock but also a shelter, camp store, restrooms, trails, small cabins and large tenting area – everything you would expect at a state park.  With a $2 fee even a small tram was available to transport visitors to the Gulf beach on the other side of the island (1.5 miles).  It was a dusty road so we took the ride only to find out that dogs were not allowed on the beach.  We “trammed” it back to the store for an ice cream bar and set out in the dinghy for the Love Tunnel to Manatee Hole.  It was a beautiful covered channel that lead to a small lake where indeed we came very close to a very large snorting manatee.  Next we toured the anchorage looking at boats and boat names.  There was one other looping boat from Maryland (identifiable by our mutual burgee/flag) but they were not aboard, probably at the park.  My guess is that by sunset there were 50+ boats of every description anchored here along with us – pretty nice neighborhood.

IMG_3900

Cayo Costa State Park Dock

fullsizeoutput_8964

Boy Scouts gathering to set up camp.

IMG_3901

Manatee Hole4:00 p.m.

4:00

We spent the remainder of the afternoon reading (Jim has seriously out-read me), napping (he leads in this department as well) and catching up on email (me J) as there is surprisingly good phone reception here given its ruralness (is that a word?).  Then back out in the dinghy to a nearby dog friendly beach where Sammy ran, slowing only to sniff and roll in the good beach smells.  A cold beer with some cheese and crackers rounded out the afternoon.

7:00 p.m.

Dinner consisted of leftover chicken parmesan, cold veggies, and a cookie which we ate while watching the sun set and the almost-full-moon rise.  This is one of the great rewards for anchoring out.

IMG_3864

Gally

IMG_3914

Sunset dinner

Our day ended with a game of Euchre, dishes, making the coffee for tomorrow morning and setting up the v-berth for sleeping once again.  Jim then read as I am capturing this glorious day.  It has turned out well but when I committed to the idea this morning, who knew it would be a perfect day?  That is part of the fun.

10:00 p.m.

Well, time for bed. We will set the alarm to get up every hour and check our position on the GPS to make certain we stay in place!  Due to the 20-25 mph winds we will hear weird noises and bounce tonight but dragging anchor into another boat or going aground would make for a terrible night.  The numbers are exactly what they were an hour ago so all is well for now.  As I turn out the lights and look out over the stern, I see 50+ anchor lights twinkling amongst the stars and a bright almost-full-moon.

Sammy Sayz:  Don’t bother me I’ve been sleeping for over an hour.  It has been a tough day of guarding and smelling, eating and sleeping.

IMG_3862

Quote of the Day:  “There is nothing – absolutely nothing—half so much worth doing as messing about in boats.”  Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows

Good Boat Name:  “Cinderella and Dumpy” on a beautiful boat sailed by  a gorgeous young couple.  I’m pretty sure there is more to that story.

Bad Boat Name:  Toad (yes, it was a less than attractive boat)

Happy Birthday to:  Lisa and Andrea today!!!

    

Hangin’ on Captiva

March 30 – April 7, 2017

Miles traveled:  0

Total miles traveled:  3275

Upon arrival at the South Seas Resort on Captiva Island and awaiting Mike, Veta, Klava, Oscar and Ashleigh, we knew that once again we had to leave the marina over the weekend due to full slips reserved for two different boating rendezvous.  This meant that we would have to move the 15 or so miles back south to the Sanibel Marina in what turned out to be some pretty heavy weather plus we plan to continue our travels north after the family visit UGH!   As we get better at figuring out marina culture, we were hoping for cancellations due to the weather.  We procrastinated on our forced departure and sure enough folks were cancelling and the harbor master was more than happy to have our money for the full week!  Today we remain on Captiva waiting, once again, for the weather to settle.  Last night Sammy didn’t sleep a wink due to 20-25 mph winds with the doors rattling, the lines squeaking, the rigging whining and the dinghy bumping.  Having seen pictures of the snow in Michigan today and given the amenities at one of the nicest resorts on one of the nicest beaches in FL, I am truly not complaining.

fullsizeoutput_894a

fullsizeoutput_88e2

Captiva Island Beach Beauties

The family visit exceeded expectations in one of the most beautiful places anywhere:  rest and relaxation for us with daily work-outs for Mike; catching-up with long morning conversations over coffee on the deck; swimming in 5 different pools; walking the beach selecting shells and swimming in the big waves; spectacular sunsets; delicious meals in funky and elegant places (The Mucky Duck, R.C. Otter’s, The Bubble Room, and Harborside Bar and Grille sitting at the same table as four years ago when were just getting to know Veta and Klava); girl-time of shopping for fun and fashionable stuff, doing nails and braiding hair;  playing Old Maid and hang man; ukulele/song serenades by Klava; continuous gazing and cherishing of  Oscar who found his toes and loved the ceiling fans.  His favorite pass-time consisted of long naps with Mom and the spinning, disco, mirrored globe in the Bubble Room coming in second.  A great time was had by all!  Again, a picture is worth a thousand words so here goes. . .

Pool fun

IMG_3816

Ashleigh and Klava at sunset from our deck

IMG_3579

Fun and Fashion

Tunnel of Love at the Bubble Room

They flew away on Wednesday afternoon (5th) leaving Jim, Sammy and me to relish in the afterglow.  On Thursday and today (7th) fighting a tinge of let-down, we decided to stay and enjoy the resort before heading North tomorrow.

IMG_3844

Gonna miss them!

Currently we are tied up at the Offshore Sailing School dock where Curt taught sailing 15 or so years ago here on Captiva.  There are 26’ day-sailboats, 40’ open water boats and a 48’ cat.  It is entertaining to watch the students and staff work together, or not.  Yesterday during a docking exercise the spring and bow lines were looped (no pun intended) around a piling as the captain attempted to swing the boat in against the wind.  Under great strain and not as expected, the piling broke off at the water line sending everyone scurrying to figure out what to do next.  Believe me everyone had a different idea!

IMG_3542

I think it was that black piling above that broke off right next to the Namaste

As I have said, it is the people we meet who make this adventure.  One morning while walking Sammy on the beach, I met Chef Lisa, from Cleveland, here recuperating and visiting her daughter.  We connected, had a lovely about-life conversation before parting ways.  Charles, the harbor master, is a kind guy and a wealth of information dealing masterfully with entitled people.  Last night a delightful young family from Minneapolis stopped by the Namaste as I was doing dishes to ask questions such as:  Do you live on this boat? Did you sail here from Michigan?  Do you sail across the ocean?

Sammy Sayz:  They think the family visit was great but I’m thinking what about me? My hang out places were limited to alone on the Namaste during the day or alone on the screened porch of the condo at night with maybe a few “atta girls” along the way.  What is it with this no pet policy?  Next time I’m gonna bark every 15 seconds all day and all night. On the other hand, I did get to run, run, run on the tennis courts at night.

IMG_3643Who’s pouting?

 

Quote of the Day:  “We don’t have WiFi so you will just have to talk to one another.”  Sign at R.C. Otter’s, a local watering hole

IMG_3730

 

Good Boat Name:  Blew By You (in blue letters on a go-fast boat)

 

Bad Boat Name: none today

 

Happy Birthday to:  Lucy (belated), Lisa

From Home-Stay to On-the-Move-Again

March 13-29, 2017

Miles traveled:  170

Total miles traveled:  3275

It has been a long time since I blogged and the first thing I want to say is that I had a wonderful and much needed home-stay the week of March 13th. Because Mike was away, I was invited north to spend the week with Veta and children but also visited with the CBLC and PHLAN families.  Everyone flexed their schedules to make it happen and I will let pictures tell the story!  Have I mentioned lately that I have the very best daughters-in-law ever?

IMG_3408

Oscar at 3 months

IMG_3313

Cedar’s new sweater

img_3323.jpg

Lunch with Leonie

IMG_3418

Nate on St. Patrick’s Day finding the leprechaun

IMG_3298

Klava’s beautiful smile

Liam on Oboe – day #1
IMG_3413

Ashleigh and friends for the MHS Charity Dance – Freshwomen

IMG_3415

Lexi and Audrey going to the MHS Charity Dance – Seniors

My travels were easy except for the shuttle ride from Miami Airport back to Faro Blanco (door to door).  Upon touch-down my phone rang telling me to hurry as the shuttle, which wasn’t scheduled to leave for 45 minutes, was departing.  Fortunately, I hadn’t checked luggage so I hustled from the far end of the airport to the appointed spot to find the shuttle missing.  Ultimately, I found it about another ½ mile down in the frantically busy ground transportation lane. The Keys Shuttle, 12 passenger van was full to overflowing with two folks requiring three seats.  I piled in by two women, fortunately with the aisle and sliding door to my right thinking I would simply read my book and look out the window for the two hour ride.  Not to be.

In shotgun was a guy who knew everything and continually enlightened us all.  In row #1 was a grandpa with two teenage granddaughters listening through earbuds while laughing and talking at a volume that allowed us all to experience their enthusiasm.  In row #2 with me were two women whom I assumed were traveling together but were not.  In row #3 were a disagreeing couple and a lucky single lady who pretty much sat there in the corner and read her book!

Back to row #2, at some point the lady in the middle turned toward me and I instantly knew that boundary setting was not an option. It became diagnostically clear that this lady was traveling alone, was on overload and anxiety had taken her over.  She had missed her flight from Miami to Key West so the shuttle was her only option to Marathon that evening.  She was physically unable to get out of the van at the rest stop; could not find her bag or her wallet in her bag or her money in her wallet; and forgot the address where she was to be dropped, but kept telling me (and us all) the same beautiful stories about her life back in the day, in NYC. In the end the entire van was focused upon and caring for this delightful lady until we had her in the arms of her waiting friends.  Her gratitude was endless and I will never forget her determination and spirit. I only hope that the world will be as friendly to me and you one day! I was ecstatic to depart the shuttle after our 3+ hour adventure (there was also an accident on Highway #1) seeing Jim and Sammy happily awaiting my return.  I believe they both enjoyed some alone time at this beautiful resort but we were all happy to be together again.  We indulged ourselves with a stiff drink for me and a late-night order of lobster mac and cheese!

Jim accomplished much on the Namaste while I was gone:  painted the head, v-berth and rub rails; varnished the binnacle, cabin floor, hatch, companionway, mast-step, taft and toe-rails; installed a cigar lighter (like in a car) on the navigation pod to plug in an inverter and charge the iPad for navigation during long days of travel; and replaced the Velcro on all the screens. Oh yes, and the taxes are done, check!

During our last week on Marathon/Faro Blanco we enjoyed the company of wonderful people.  Gypsy Spirit (Dan and Jenny Lynn from White Lake, MI) fed Jim spaghetti dinner while I was away and whom I am certain we will meet again. Gypsy Soul (Troy and Lori) we met at an anchorage in Marco Island weeks ago turned up again across from us in the marina.  They reported also seeing us in Panama City, up in the Pan Handle, Thanksgiving, 2015 and although we didn’t meet then, the Universe truly meant for us to connect.  Their youthful energy and interesting life stories were refreshing!  If you haven’t guessed by now, the people we meet and connections we make frequently fall into the “meant to be” category for us.  We had a memorable Faro dinner with both Gypsy families one evening!  Additionally, we were treated to Don and Barb on the gorgeous DeFever 49, Cavara.  Thank you for the lovely dinner and time together.  Also, Jim and Rita onboard Daisy shared incredible life stories from which to learn.  Please let our paths cross again sometime!

A day at Sombraro Beach, Marathon

IMG_3439

A sunset dinghy ride home after dinner at the Fisheries.

Ozzy Osbourne and his son had lunch at the Faro Blanco Lighthouse Grille one afternoon – 30 yards from the bow of the Namaste.  His appearance lives up to the legend (he is 68 and looks 98).  We don’t need our paths to cross again but it was fun to watch the fuss of our friendly Faro staff. A special shout-out to Jose, Josh, Sabrina, Mike and Devon (Sterling Heights) – you are the best!

fullsizeoutput_888b

Ozzy is the one with the hat.

Meanwhile we were waiting for a weather window to cross the Florida Bay back to the west coast of Florida to meet Mike, Veta, Klava, Oscar and Ashleigh on Firday (March 31) at Captiva Island near Fort Myers.  The dilemma was that we had our slip rent paid through the 26th but had a good weather window earlier in the week.  We decided to make a run for it only to change our minds upon wake-up as the weather had shifted once again and our window had closed.  So, on the 26th, rent paid and things looking pretty good for the necessary 3 day window we departed Faro Blanco, 2017.

IMG_3479

One of the many rain shower cells around on the crossing from Marathon to Florida

The weather was not what we would have ordered but fine for day #1.  Winds and waves increased with shower cells dancing about us throughout the 42 mile and 8 hour passage losing all cell connections in about an hour.  We pulled into Little Shark River in the Everglades where we spent the night with seven other boats.  It is as remote a place as I have ever been or probably ever will be at the very southern tip of western FL.  To say that the mosquitoes were thick is an understatement so at dusk we closed up for the night with only a dozen or so mosquitoes to fight down below keeping us awake along with an animal snorting and breathing just off the boat stern as well as a splash large enough to be a ten-year-old child. Both were probably a dolphin or manatee but could also have been a shark or a gator.  As an added feature there was some sort of a low-tone signal we heard every 15-30 seconds all night. After checking and rechecking everything Jim decided it was coming through the hull from one of the other boats in the anchorage but we will never know.   On day #2 we awoke to a cacophony of bird songs and pulled out before dawn followed by a swarm of happy-to-see-us mosquitoes. It was a perfect day and the 56 mile sail up to Marco Island with, at one point, 6 other sailboats was a truly beautiful open-water experience! We anchored about 6 p.m. in Smokehouse Bay and had cell coverage restored – amazing how much one misses LTE!  The mosquitos weren’t visiting yet so we spent a beautiful evening of supper in the cockpit over sunset, going in by dinghy to walk Sammy and enjoy an ice cream cone and then back to the cockpit for some romantic star gazing.  On perfect day #3 we left Marco Island and headed the 15 miles north to the Naples City Dock and a mooring ball where we were greeted by a dolphin playing around the Namaste for over an hour. I have many water pictures but not a single one with a dolphin visible. Day #4 was again beautiful and we sailed the 59 miles to Captiva (South Seas Resort) awaiting Mike and Veta’s arrival. Let nothing get in the way of a family visit!!!!

IMG_3482

Leaving Little Shark River at Sunrise – Can you see the mosquitoes?

IMG_3504

Leaving Marco Island

IMG_3527

Leaving Naples – a parade of boats

IMG_3533

Watching crab pots the whole way!

Sammy Says:  There is so much to report but most importantly, Jim and Jo have finally invited me  into the v-berth.  As I believe I have mentioned before, they left me as lookout in the salon – an impossible job on windy nights.  Perhaps they don’t trust me but more likely they have given in to my whining and pacing.  All I can say is, it’s about time and I love cuddling with the family.  On the flip side, I hate going potty on the deck but after 24 with 12 hours left to go…

IMG_3457This is me with my best friend in all the world – Jose!

Good Boat Name:  Sweeter than Wine

Bad Boat Name: Rumpshaker

Quote of the day:  “Do you ever look at your grandchildren and think…wow, how did I get so lucky! – “Share” Stuff

Happy Birthday to:  Sharron (belated)

 

    

 

 

 

The Good Life – Faro Blanco Resort

 

March 6-12, 2017

Miles traveled:  0

Total miles traveled:  3106

We continue to live in slip B105 at Faro Blanco until March 26th where we are having a wonderful time with anywhere from 6-10 other looping or cruising boats and their families.  The heavy blow (25-40 mph winds) that began last week lasted for five long days never letting up but the sun stayed out and it was warm the entire time. Two outdoor weddings with dresses and hair flying took place during the wind but even the brides didn’t seem to mind.  Also, a very large vessel attempted to leave the marina before things returned to normal and ran aground in the Gulf as he left.  Apparently, the strong winds had blown the water out of Florida Bay so depths weren’t as charted.  His two large propellers were bent beyond recognition but the captain just happened to have two spares (at $20,000 each) onboard.  A couple of divers and all was well again!

IMG_3055The calm before the storm

IMG_3076A palm in 30+ mph winds

IMG_3063Windy Wedding on the dock.  Note the concerned captain on the left checking his lines.

Captain Jim has been smoothing out a few wrinkles on and off the Namaste.  Most significantly were the bolts that attach our Mercury 6 hp outboard engine to the dinghy.  For some time now he noticed that the bolts were corroded and simply would not turn.  This just doesn’t happen in Michigan.  We had the helpful advice of our friends which included using a “blaster” penetrating spray oil and a heat gun.  When neither of these even budged the bolts and due to the fear of cracking the engine casting, we left it to the professionals.  Two hours and $258 later (everything is relative) the engine bolts turned effortlessly and Jim could check that off his to do list and yes, lubricating those bolts is now on our monthly checklist.  Secondly, the hatch (window over our heads in the V-birth) required refinishing but because it also required removal, it obviously would be accomplished when rain was not in the forecast.  Hours of scraping, sanding, five coats of varnish and a new seal made it look and act new again with only a couple of brief downpours during the weeklong process.  Finally, back to the dinghy, while the engine was off Captain Jim scrubbed the yucky barnacles off the bottom so we are ready for our next dinghy drift.  We have also purchased new cartridges for our self-inflating life vests – one of those pesky, unglamorous, ultimate necessities.

IMG_3097

Dinghy (Dink) scraping

In addition to watching the wind blow, nature has been a focus of the past week.  We have seen iguanas sunning themselves and running around on docks.  In the water have been manatees, lobsters and parrot fish particularly visible at night with the neat underwater boat lights. Jim and I also went to the Crane Point Museum and Nature Center at mile marker 50 Bayside which is one of the most understated attractions in the Keys.  The Crane Family preserved the area as the 3rd largest white coral barrier reef in the world that houses the last remaining thatch palm hammocks containing rare and endangered species.  Its volunteers are truly environmental stewards that maintain the natural habitat of the old Florida Keys!  Included are 1.5 miles/63 acres of nature trails marking plants, trees and palms that lead to The Point offering a spectacular view of the Florida Bay.  A Museum of Natural History, Butterfly Meadow, Wild Bird Center and three historical homes also adorn the property.  There is a 1990’s Wyland mural painted on one wall.  On our hike we saw a nesting Osprey, a rather large spider hanging over the path in its arching web, countless butterflies and a beautiful Lionfish in an museum aquarium just like the ones Ashleigh and I saw snorkeling last year.  There is one small sign marking the entrance across from Publix, it is not to be missed!

fullsizeoutput_87a4Iguana  This guy matches the cement but usually they are in the grass and are lime green

IMG_3259

Two Lobsters.  The white lines are slats in the dock with the sun shining through

IMG_3189Lion Fish

IMG_3178Nesting Osprey

IMG_3176Large spider hanging over the trail on his web

IMG_3172White coral barrier reef (3rd largest in the world)

IMG_3187Thatch Palms

On the social side of life, we went to the local movie theater to see La-La-Land.  Emma Stone was wonderful, Ryan Gosling easy to watch and the music/dancing inspirational – highly recommended!  The rest of the story, however was walking the 1.5 miles into the 30 mph winds and spits of rain not in the forecast.  Additionally, the entertainment began while waiting in line outside the theatre with our friends plus several other retired couples and a few Marathon locals.  We were slightly late so were at the end of the line when the ticket agent disappeared into the theatre to count empty seats.  Next the cash register and/or credit card machine weren’t working properly and the 2:00 show-time came and went with about ten of us still standing outside in line.  The local flavor got a little restless and thus providing us with perhaps more information than we needed about their life in Marathon.  Eventually the lady returned, got everyone through the line and into seats before the show began, probably 30 minutes late. Our new friends were in the front row, asleep and snoring within minutes.

We hosted docktails on the Namaste one windy evening which lasted 2 ½ hours which is saying something since the air was hot and the seating hard and sparse. Obviously, the company, food and conversation were lasting.  We have also shared meals with large groups of friends and are headed to my personal favorite, the Sunset Grille, tonight with Kenny and Jeanne of Daybreak as well as Anne and Mel of Morning Star.  As I write this, though, many of our boat buddies have already either left or are preparing for leave taking to the Bahamas or to begin their journey back up the ICW to the north country.  Sunset Delight and Shell Bell left last week, Seascape, Tranquility and Miss Bailey left yesterday morning, Our Plan and Kharma are leaving tomorrow and Morning Star and Sweet T are leaving Monday.  Each of these departures requires a docktail party or celebratory dinner.  Daybreak, Gypsy Soul, and the Namaste remain as well as the new boats that arrive each day.  Oh, and I didn’t tell you about the 110’ Freedom, sister boat to Sequoia which was the yacht serving nine presidents from Hoover to Gerald Ford.  It was totally restored for $6M in 2007 and could not be more beautiful and was the marina highlight for an afternoon and evening.  We never did figure out who was aboard and the dockhands aren’t talking!

Docktails on Namaste

IMG_3133Docktails on the dock

IMG_3208Dinner at the Lighthouse Grille – our own private room

IMG_3221

Sunset Grille – The best tiki bar and restaurant anywhere!

IMG_3149

IMG_3118Freedom – nothing else to say!

IMG_3140Faro Blanco is next to a Coast Guard Station and the sunset cannon will fire right now!

We mastered Active Captain today!  We downloaded a new navigation app (Garmin Blue Chart) and then added the Active Captain interactive data.  We have tried to do this several times over the last 18 months but finally decided to make it happen today as Kenny offered us a user tutorial.  After many moves, backtracks, changes of Apple password on our ipad, and a long call to Apple support we had SUCCESS!  After a French Horn concert by Jeanne, Kenny sat with us for over an hour and coffee this morning.  Practice will be the key to continued success so Jim is currently creating routes for our future plans.  This stuff is fairly intuitive but not nearly as much as we require.

IMG_3255

 

Sammy Sayz:  All good here.  I did escape again the other day but they didn’t get as upset when I came tearing back to the boat upon Captain Jim’s whistle.  These high winds are most annoying.  How am I supposed to protect them and the boat at night with winds whistling in the rigging, the boat creaking against the fenders, stuff shifting about in the cupboards, the dinghy bumping against the side of the Namaste?  I don’t know what to bark at first so I just shake and whine which usually gets their attention.  My favorite cays are spent laying in the shade by the pool. 

 

Good boat name of the day:  Freedom

Bad boat name of the day:  Sorry (on the back of a boat going fast enough to throw up a big wake)

Quote of the day:  You have brains in your head.  You have feet in your shoes.  You can steer yourself any direction you choose. – Dr. Seuss

Happy Birthday to:  Katie, Heather and Ilene

Congratulations to:  Ashleigh for earning her varsity letter in skiing as a fresh-woman at Milford High School