Sunday: With only 14 nautical miles to reach our chosen anchorage, we have plenty of time this morning to get prepped for departure. Tracy has selected on of the more secluded anchorages in the Cayo Costa area with only room for 2 boats, so it is our first choice but when we get there, it may be full already, so we’ll just have to wait and see.
We get all the ordinary work out of the way then we must fill the fresh water holding tank a bit because we’ll be at anchorage without a water source. Then as we are leaving, we will pull up to the fuel dock and get a pump out so our tanks are clean before staying overnight ‘on the hook’. We both agree that there’s probably enough room in the tanks to last the night, but it’s always good to be prepared, just in case we end up anchored for more than one night.
So at 10:55am we’re pulling away from the fuel dock of Aquamarina Palm Harbour and headed south on the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway towards Punta Blanca Island and our anchorage of choice. The ICW is true to form today as there are a slew of vessels of various types and sizes filling the channel on this sunny Sunday. There’s loads of pontoon boats (all seem to be filled to capacity) there’s sailing vessels, there’s paddle boards, there’s sport fishers and other trawlers. You name it, today, it’s out! Some of the trip today is in a no wake zone so it’s not quite as crazy as if all the power vessels were going full guns at 25 mph, but still, the waterway is definitely different on the weekends.
Of course, we get the customary dolphin accompaniment today as we’ve determined that trawlers go the exact speed that dolphins enjoy for frolicking. So while there are loads of other vessels out today, it seems that the dolphins avoid the other boats and cruise with us. Today, the pair of dolphins that ride with us for about 15 minutes choose to romp in our port wake right at midship rather than the usual bow riders. So Tracy gets some great video of these two playing in our wake including some rolls and inverted swimming.
Right after crossing Port Charlotte Harbor, we are looking down the throat of the Pelican Bay Area of Cayo Costa State Park and the more popular anchorage for the State Park. We can see that it’s already quite crowded, but we have selected to stay on the ICA and traverse the complete Punta Blanca Island towards the south side where we will turn in and see if the tiny little cove has any vessels anchored. If there’s room (and there’s only room for 2 boats), we’ll claim a space and drop the hook. If it’s full, we’ll turn around, go back north up the length of Punta Blanca Island and turn into the pelican Bay with all the other vessels and find a spot there.
But as busy as today has been, once we navigate around the shallow water entrance we see a pristine bay with nothing but water, Egrets and trees! So we will be staying here tonight after all. This anchorage has been rated 10 out of 10 from previous vessels that have anchored here, so today is our lucky day!
Once the anchor is set and we have let out 75 feet of rode in 7 feet of water, we can relax and enjoy the rest of the day since it’s only 1pm and the sun is high and hot. As we are looking around surveying the scenery of this location, we spot two beautiful Bald Eagles in the trees. One appears to be the male sitting high in a tree seemingly guarding the area for his family. The other is the Mom guarding the nest of babies.
I break out one of our inflatable kayaks (they’ve been in their storage bags since we left Connecticut) and pump it up. Then we go for a ride where I paddle and Tracy fishes. Disappointedly, she only catches the obligatory catfish(s) today, so no exotic species are landed today. The sky is clear and we figure if the sky stays clear, we should be able to do some star gazing tonight on the bow.
While we were out kayaking/fishing a fellow looper that we’ve never met called my cell phone (which was back on the vessel on the charger) and left a message that they spotted our boat, looked up the member directory, and were able to locate my cell and seek us out. It was nearly dark when I returned the call, but they are gold loopers just starting out on their second loop from Tampa Bay and after chatting for a while, we decided that we will be able to hook up in Fort Meyers possibly Tuesday. This AGLCA is a great organization with great members and a great system for tracking down membership info. I love it!
We do not see any other vessels come into this beautiful cove today, so we get to enjoy the sights and sounds all to ourselves. One of the sights is a beautiful Bald Eagle couple where the male is atop a tree guarding the surrounding area while the female is at the nest in an adjacent tree watching over the newly hatched eggs. As evening comes and the sun sets, the evening sky evolves exactly as we had expected and we sit on the bow for an hour watching the stars above, beautiful evening at anchorage!
Monday: Fort Meyers today. This will put us within 10 miles of where we originally found Kailani 4 years ago. We have a reservation for a 2 week stay at Legacy Harbour Marina in downtown Fort Meyers. I am anticipating this stay ever since we’ve owned Kailani because I’ve always liked the looks of the marina on their website and it’s been a favorite of all loopers for a long time.
Our cruise today from our anchorage to the marina is only 32 nautical miles and there are no bridge openings required as we will cruise under 3 fixed bridges at 55 feet. There should be some ‘no wake’ zones once we get near the Caloosahatchee River and we are also looking at the tides to decide on a 9:30am departure today. So there’s not any pressure to hurry this morning. All we have to do to prepare for raising the anchor is to raise the inflatable kayak and secure her on the bow. This does not take as long as expected and we have the anchor raised and cleaned by 9:20am and turning towards the breadcrumbs we left yesterday to exit this gorgeous cove. Soon we are back on the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway for the last miles of protected waters on the gulf side. Yes we will cruise today to mile marker 0, then turn onto the Caloosahatchee River to join the Okechobee Waterway. Dolphins accompany us today once again further proving that trawlers cruise at the dolphin’s ‘favorite’ speed for romping as we never see vessels of other varying speeds watching dolphins romp alongside their hulls.
Even though its a weekday, the waterway is very busy with trawlers, sailboats, fishing vessels and ‘go-fast’ boats. In fact, once we are on the Caloosahatchee River we approach a ‘no wake’ zone just as a go fast boat is passing us on our port side. He gives a friendly wave as he enters the no wake zone at near full speed. My wave back to him is a hand signal to slow down and he complies. He appears to be a retired gentlemen with his wife and friend couple aboard and he’s piloting a 30 foot center console with three brand new 350 hp outboards. How does someone smart enough to make enough money to afford this costly a vessel, be so ignorant to the rules of the road???
On the River, we can see the skyline of Fort Meyers in the distance up ahead and soon, we are turning into the inlet for Legacy Harbour Marina. As instructed, we call them on the VHF and the first reply from them is to proceed to slip B14 and we respond that we ‘copy’. Then another call comes in for us and the girl says to proceed to slip A4. So now we must clarify the discrepancy and the girl confirms that we are to proceed to slip A4 and two dockhands will meet us at the slip. There’s a bit of wind as we enter the marina and both Tracy and I prepare for the wind to effect Kailani during the docking, however as we cruise towards our assigned slip, we are met with calm waters as the wind gets blocked by an adjacent high-rise condominium structure, so the docking goes very smoothly and at exactly 1:30pm we are shutting down the engines and beginning our 2 week stay in Fort Meyers.
Later in the afternoon, we get a call from the crew aboard Jill Kristy and we agree that tomorrow, Tuesday in the afternoon would be a great time for them to come over and meet us. This is the couple that called from the anchorage, so we are looking forward to that now.
We find an ice cream shop just a few blocks away so after dinner, we take a walk downtown to find ‘Scoops on Main’ and try some locally made ice cream. The downtown is packed with restaurants and shops and the sidewalks are crowded as we take our walk.
Tuesday: A relaxing day today as we just kick back and enjoy our time aboard Kailani and the surrounding marina environment. There are numerous AGLCA burgees here so I should have a great time introducing us to other loopers. As previously arranged, Richard and Jill of Jill Kristy show up in the afternoon and we have a nice visit with them. They are docked in a friend’s ‘backyard’ across the river in Coral Gables and they have borrowed the vehicle to drive over here for the visit.
We introduce them to our neighbors, fellow loopers, Rick and Rhonda aboard Mary’n Gale before they leave so we can get ready for the Boater’s Appreciation Dinner here at the marina.
The Boater’s Appreciation Dinner is an annual event here at Legacy Harbour Marina and its held for all annual and monthly boaters so we qualify to attend as we have leased the slip for a month since it was cheaper than paying for 2 consecutive weeks. The dinner is catered by ‘The Farmer’s Market Restaurant’ and there is prime rib, chicken and dumpling soup, vegetables, salad, rolls, coffee and dessert served all as a thank you from the ownership to the loyal boaters here. And if that’s not enough, the Harbormaster, Eric proceeds to give out 45 minutes of door prizes after dinner! We got to sit with 4 other gold looper couples and had a great time at this dinner.
Wednesday: Nicole and Jake will visit today, then we’ll have to get Tracy to the airport by 6pm for her flight back to the snowy region of Southern New England. Jake and Nicole are right on time and we spend the rest of the morning visiting aboard Kailani before taking them to Joe’s Crab House Restaurant here on site. We all have a nice lunch and as they are leaving to head back to Jake’s Grandparent’s condo in Naples, we say our goodbyes as the visit has gone by too quickly.
We reminisce a bit and realize that it was just one year ago when Nicole and her mom, my sister, Lisa were aboard Kailani for a weekend in Swansboro, NC. We’re all glad that the weather this year is much nicer than that time a year ago
Tracy spends the afternoon making sure she is fully prepared for the evening flightand at 4:30pm we are calling for an Uber to get her to the airport for her flight home. She makes it home on schedule and her best friend Kim is there to meet her and drive her home for the week. Kim’s wedding which will be next Tuesday. Tracy will return next Wednesday while I stay here with Frankie for the week. Tracy meanwhile will be prepping for and attending the wedding ceremony of her best friend and one of our most enjoyable boat mates, Kim. (Kim and Tracy have been friends for seemingly ever, and she’s been probably spent the most time aboard Kailani with us of all our friends.) So Tracy will have a great time at home while I try to lounge around here getting sun and water fun into my days. Kim planned to spend the week preparing for the wedding, generally calming each other down, all while congratulating each other wildly. I did indeed do all of that! Kim wanted to give out wildflower packets to the wedding guests with the concept being “grow your love”. We could not figure out how to hand out the flowers so we came up with this arrangement. (I thought it was rather lovely!). -tc.
Thursday, March 6th to Saturday, March 16th:
With plenty of time, and everything nearby, I can run lots of errands and go wherever necessary during this time. Each day starts off with Frankie’s walk, then a ‘breakfast for one’. I soon find out it’s sometimes easier to make breakfast for two. The weather stays sunny and mild with temperatures in the eighties every day. My first day solo is the weekly Farmer’s Market just a one block walk away in Centennial Park, so I grab a few of our handled shopping bags and off I go to the Farmer’s Market. It turns out to be fairly small compared to some other markets we’ve been to but the fruits and vegetables turn out to be very fresh and I walk back with cucumbers, a pineapple, strawberries and some grapes. Except for the cucumbers, everything else is cut and frozen for long keeping freshness and then I’m off to the pool for some sun.
I also walk into downtown a few times for the express purpose of trying every flavor of ice cream at the local ‘Scoops’ store. Then on Monday, I see that our good friends from the lower Tombigbee aboard Red Pearl, Steve and Kathy are docked at Fort Myers Yacht Basin. So I take a walk over and knock on their boat to say hello. They’re in the midst of a long distance call with their daughter, so we make arrangements to meet for dinner later on in town and I walk back to Kailani.
We decide to try ‘Ford’s Garage’ for dinner and they are known locally for their burgers. We all have different types of burgers that fill everyone’s taste buds and afterwards, we say good night and safe cruising. They will be heading up the Okechobee Waterway and we will eventually be cruising south towards the Keys, so it’ll be a long time before we have a possibility of catching up with them again, but it was great to spend time together today.
Tuesday, I confirm our car rental for Wednesday so I’ll be able to drive to the airport to pick up Tracy as she returns from Connecticut.
Wednesday afternoon, I head out towards the airport so I’ll be there plenty ahead of Tracy’s scheduled 8:15pm arrival and everything goes smoothly. After leaving the airport, Tracy picks a nearby restaurant for dinner and we head to Conner’s Steak and Seafood Restaurant. I order the prime rib and it’s delicious while Tracy orders a ribeye and most of it becomes the steak in steak and eggs for Thursday’s breakfast. Once we’re back aboard Kailani, Frankie does a ten minute happy dance upon seeing Tracy walk aboard.
Thursday, we have tickets for the Broadway Palm Dinner Theater for their matinee showing of Guys and Dolls. This is a play that both Tracy and I acted in when we were in college, so we look forward to this opportunity to watch others perform the same play. The meal is a decent buffet and as we look around on this Thursday afternoon, we realize that we’re probably the youngest people in the entire audience. Another unprovable coincidence is that after posting on Facebook that we’re watching Guys and Dolls, we get a reply from our daughter-in-law Stephanie that one of her close friend’s daughter is the star portraying ‘Mission Doll, Sara’. Small world huh!
Friday, I drive over to the local Fort Meyers Country Club and get into a foursome with some locals and enjoy a nice round of golf while Tracy gets some chores done aboard Kailani. Also, I drive a bit further south to the local dive shop and drop off my dive watch for a battery change. They will replace the battery and it will be ready early Saturday so I can pick it up before we depart.
Saturday we take our rental car and drive to the IMAG History and Science Center. This is a local small-type facility, but we are able to get in using our reciprocal agreement from our membership we purchased at the Air and Space Museum back in Hampton, VA, so an afternoon of no-cost fun viewing science, weather and history exhibits.
Ever since we got here, our plan was to spend two weeks here, then leave next Monday to go just across the river to Kitty Nicolai’s house for an evening stopover before leaving again on Tuesday headed for Marco Island, but as the days have gotten closer to our scheduled departure, we’ve seen the weather worsen for winds and waves in the gulf. So we make a decision to stay here a few extra days to wait out the weather. When we checked into the marina, we ended up paying for a month because the monthly rate was more economical than two weekly rates, so staying here will not cost us money, it will just delay us from getting to the bluewater of the Keys.