Sunday: We start the day by getting ready for a local church service to attend. Tracy has selected the First Christian Church which is only a two block walk, so we are there in time for a cup of coffee and in our pew before the singing starts. There’s a lot of singing with a big screen above the band and the words can be followed on the big screen, so we join in with the singing and 1 hour and 20 minutes later after lots of songs, prayer and sermon, we’re walking out towards the breakfast restaurant next to the Publix Supermarket. There’s a sort wait and soon, we’re seated getting Sunday brunch/breakfast. The afternoon is spent aboard Kailani doing some small chores. A fellow looper pulls in alongside us and we help them dock and exchange boat cards. Turns out we’ve been only mere days apart ever since the Hudson River. The other good news is that Dan has his golf club on board, so we agree to play on Wednesday since we’ve targeted Thursday to depart, based on current weather forecasts.
Monday: We were originally scheduled to leave today and cruise to Kitty Nicolai’s dock in her backyard in Coral Gables, but since we’re not moving Kailani today, we’ll drive over instead. So we make our way across the Cape Coral Bridge and easily find her house. Kitty has house guests from Canada staying in their motorhome in her driveway and they are also loopers, so we talk lots about the loop, Kitty is a wonderful Harbor Host, and Tracy gets in some fishing as she brought her bait and tackle with her. Ralph uses Tracy’s second pole and between them they catch a big fat zero!, not even a channel catfish. Oh well, there will be better days of fishing for her soon. After dock tails, hors d’oeuvres and some nice desserts, we say our thank you’s and goodbyes and drive back to Legacy Harbour Marina.
Tuesday: A full day of apparently much needed rain today. This is not the Florida rain I’m used to where it rains for about 20 minutes, then the sun comes out and steam fills the roads. No, this is full out rail for most of the day. So indoor chores fill the day and we do our laundry.
Wednesday: I will return our rental car and Dan will meet me there with his rental car, then we’ll both ride together to the Fort Myers Country Club where we find out we’ve been paired up with two local businessmen. Turns out Dan is a retired banker and the two other guys are each a builder and a banker! What are the odds? Two builders and two bankers in the same foursome mostly total strangers. We have a great morning/afternoon playing 18 holes then we drive back to the marina and Tracy and I work on getting ready for a morning departure.
Thursday: We pull away form the docks at 9:20am with Dan’s help and scoot over to Fort Myers Yacht Basin to fill up the fuel tanks before heading further south into ‘Big Boat’ territory where most of the boating prices including fuel are slightly more expensive. On the fuel dock we meet another looper couple that are just starting out. They began their adventure in Tampa and are still apprehensive about the whole trip, but Tracy does her best to calm some fears while showing Allene the interior of Kailani while I fuel up, 54 gallons in each tank takes care of it, and we get a $.05 per gallon discount for AGLCA.
By 10:00am we’re heading down the Caloosahatchee River towards the Gulf of Mexico. The river is again totally crowded and the ‘Miserable Mile’ earns its stripes on this day. Once we are out of the inlet passing between Fort Myers Beach and Sanibel Island we are into the Gulf and today’s forecast falls short of reality as the majority of the three plus hours in open water are a bit rocky to say the least and as we are approaching Naples with a final destination planned for Marco Island (9 miles further down), Tracy is calling marinas in Naples to see if we can pull in short of our goal and get out of the gulf waters. She secures us a slip at Naples City Docks and soon we are turning into Gordon Pass headed for downtown Naples. All day the waves have pounded us from the starboard stern quarter so when we make the turn to port to enter the pass, we are pounded on the port beam. For the first time in 1 1/2 years I get sea sick. I went below feeling fine and then one, two, three quick times and all is better. Now Frankie was at it all day. Poor thing! -tc But it’s only a short distance and we favor the port side of the channel so we don’t get pushed into the rock wall on the starboard side of the inlet/pass. Soon we are in calmer waters headed back north towards Naples and the City Docks.
Jake the Dockhand is waiting on the dock for our lines, but the winds are blowing directly from our beam and from the dock, so each time I try to nestle Kailani up to the dock, the winds blow us away far enough that Tracy can’t get a dock line to Jake. But eventually, we work her up close enough and Jake gets 2 lines secured so we can shut her down.
We have docked between two 75 foot vessels with another 200 feet of space on the wall. Soon a 130 foot vessel is approaching and docking directly behind Kailani. Now, as I’m looking at the dock, Kailani looks like a dinghy in the midst of these two 75 footers and the 130 footer!
For dinner, we walk into town to one of the local French restaurants and we both select the Roast Duck. It isn’t as delightful as the Peking duck we’re used to from back home, but it still fills the appetite just to a point where I have room for dessert and since we’re in a French restaurant, I have to try the Napoleon with fruit. It turns out to be light as air and easy to finish!! Boy I shouldn’t have done that. On the way back to the marina we get a great glimpse of the super moon just coming up over the marina entrance.
Friday: We spend a large part of the morning trying to agree on a departure strategy so we do not end up cruising thru a rocky gulf again. We research the gulf pier cam in the dockmaster’s office, we check with a local BoatUS tow Captain, we speak with some of the local boaters on the docks, and finally decide to leave at around 11:00am to let yesterday’s seas drop down a bit before we get out there.
So at exactly 11:00am Kailani is backing away from the docks and we’re headed out to the Gulf again. The seas are comparably better than yesterday, but still a bit rough. The waves are from the same direction so they are basically following seas, but just enough abeam to make it a bit more difficult to hold a course. But after passing Marco Island and traveling about 20 total miles, we are turning nearly due East towards Indian Key Pass and the Ten Thousand Islands on the Everglades coast. Once we make this turn the seas are blocked by shoals and the water calms down for the last 16 miles of today’s cruise.
Soon we are entering the Baron River from Chokoloskee Bay and Everglades City. We planned for this cruise to put us here with a rising tide as recommended by the guidebooks and for a rising tide, this river really was pushing water upriver as we were soaring almost 2 miles per hour faster than the engines were pushing us. This was nice until we got to our marina and tried to land on a dock with the strong current becoming a cross current when we tried to steer Kailani into her dock. So after trying to approach from upriver against the current and still not getting into the slip, we moved over to the wall where there were no other vessels and soon we were tied up there with the help of Bill the marina General Manager.
After washing down the exterior and hooking up the utilities, I took a walk over to the office to register. As I walked in the building, I immediately saw a very well maintained billiard table in a large room. I walked past the billiard table towards the stairway where Judy was behind the desk saying, “Are you Mr. Civitillo?” I said yes and walked over to register where I saw the plaque on the desk welcoming us to Everglades Isle. Boy they really make you feel welcome here.
Soon Judy is explaining all the amenities at our disposal, there’s the pool, hot tub, gym, bar, billiard table, locker rooms, complimentary laundry, movie theater, golf carts (can be driven all over town), and the stairway to the lighthouse where you can enjoy a 360 degree view of Everglades City. We’ve been to tons of campgrounds and marinas now and this is by far the most accessorized facility we’ve ever seen. Tomorrow we’ll explore the town and take our airboat ride to view alligators. Should be fun.
Saturday: We have our reservation for Speedy’s Airboat Tours for 11:00am and they asked us to be there by 10:45am, so we have plenty of time for a nice breakfast. I prepare eggs over easy with sausage links and toast and Tracy gets to enjoy breakfast in bed.
Speedy’s is a 3 minute walk from our dock so we are there on time and as soon as we pay for the tour, we are told to wait for Captain Greg to call out for passengers for his airboat. The airboats hold six passengers but today we are riding with only one other couple and at straight up 11:00am we are leaving Speedy’s dock for our one hour airboat ride. We had hoped to see alligators during this tour but we learned from Greg that the gators moved north a while ago as this area turns to salt water at this time of year, so no gators today. Well instead of wildlife, Greg gives us a wild ride!
There’s many areas with Mangrove tunnels and Greg does some of them a full speed so we’re going thru these ‘tunnels’ at nearly thirty MPH and the Mangroves are trimmed back to just miss our boat and our heads. Then when we get out into an open area, Greg goes straight for a while, then puts the airboat into a 360 degree turn at full throttle!
The boat slows during the turn but its still a thrilling ride. Soon we’re on our way back to the dock and our ride is over. Everglades City is thriving with airboat tour operators and the drone of the fans is a non-stop hum as 30 or so boats come and go from 8am to 6 pm right past our dock. I believe I still hear the fans after the sun goes down!!!
For lunch we take one of the golf carts from the marina and go to nearly waterside restaurant for fresh fish and boy is it fresh. We sit facing the Baron River and watch families in their fishing boats catching lots of fish. So obviously, our next stop is the local bait and tackle store and Tracy buys 2 dozen live shrimp and spends most of the remainder of our time here fishing while I relax poolside with other campers and boaters. Just to set the record straight, she does in fact catch quite a few fish herself and they are not all catfish. Hooray!!