Sunday: Today we move and if the weather holds, tomorrow, we’ll be in the Florida Keys! First, we must cruise 43 miles today to our planned anchorage in Little Shark River. Its not a long day, so we plan for a 9:00am departure and after walking Frankie, I check the stateroom and see Tracy out of bed, all dressed, and making the bed! I guess she’s ready to leave. We adjust the lines, I walk the garbage up to the drop off area and get some complimentary ice to fill our cooler. Once I get back, we’re ready to go. The couple we met here yesterday, John and Penny aboard Scooter (not Loopers) said they were aiming for the same anchorage and they have already left since they are a slower trawler.
The tide is going out today, so Tracy points the bow into the outgoing current and in short order, Kailani is turned around ready for the cruise down the Baron River, past the Ten Thousand Islands and into the Gulf of Mexico where we will turn south and head to Ponce De Leon Bay and the mouth of Little Shark River. The Gulf again surprises us in a not good way and there are 3-4 footers today when the forecast had predicted 1-2 footers. The difference here is that they are coming out of the south so we get bow-pounded for a few hours. The south run is 30 miles and with about 12 miles to go, the Gulf starts laying down somewhat and the ride smooths out a bit. We are literally out of civilization with no cell service and very spotty VHF clarity, but there are still miles of crab pots to dodge for the entire 30 miles. We can’t imagine where the crab fishermen are based out of because we are not near any ports or harbors, except the one we just left in Everglades City.
By 2:30pm we are entering the mouth of the Little Shark River and we only have to go about 2 miles to get to Little Shark River Point where we will anchor, so soon enough we are spotting Scooter already set in the anchorage area and we cruise just past them and turn into the current to drop the anchor and set Kailani for the evening. There is a tide in this river so we know we will turn 180 degrees when the tide changes, so we allow for the swing room and set our anchor for 100 feet of chain in 12 feet of water. We are expecting a picturesque sunset and a beautiful night with the full moon, so as long as the sky is clear.
By the end of the day, there are two more boats in the anchorage as there was already a sailboat anchored before Scooter arrived and later, while Tracy is fishing off the back, a third trawler pulls in and sets his anchor for the evening.
So now back to Tracy, obviously fishing correct? Yup, with live shrimp still in her bait bucket left over from yesterday, she has great bait for catching anything feeling hungry in this river. While fishing out of the cockpit, she calls me down to look at something breaking the surface. I never get eyes on it, but Tracy does see it once more and confirms that it’s a large ray with at least a four foot wingspan! I wish I could have seen that as she said that it literally jumped out of the water. And I am not exaggerating! It jumped high enough for me to see the full length of it’s tail. -tc
Monday: Florida Keys, here we come! Our cruise today will take us from our anchorage here in Little Shark River to Faro Blanco Marina in Marathon.
We start early with our pre-departure duties, however, we can not re-verify the weather for the day because there is absolutely no signal here in the middle of no-man’s land! But looking out from Little Shark River Point into the open gulf, the seas look fine and so we proceed to raising the anchor. With Tracy on the bow and me at the helm, the anchor comes up smoothly and very clean. She did a great job of holding us in the changing tides of the river, and at straight up 8am we are cruising out of the river and into the Gulf. We set a course that takes us out 3 miles into slightly deeper water so we don’t have to maintain a constant check on the depth gauge. If we go out 2 miles before turning south, we’ll be cruising in mostly 7 feet of water which is plenty of water, but the depth alarm will be singing for the entire cruise, while another mile out we can cruise in a constant 12-13 feet and be assured that the bottom will not jump up and surprise us. So we head out three miles then turn south to a course of 165 degrees to head straight into the inlet for Faro Blanco Marina.
Again, we spend about two hours out of sight of any land, but today the vessel traffic seems a bit more crowded as we actually see four vessels also cruising south and two vessels cruising north, plus we finally see a crab pot vessel retrieving and re-setting traps. We’ve been wondering for a while why we always see thousands of crab pots, but rarely see any vessels working the traps. Today dispels the rumor that the pots just got there on their own (haha).
With about 11 miles to go and just before noontime, we can start to see the profile of islands ahead and sure enough by 1pm we are staring down the white lighthouse and the inlet for the Faro Blanco Marina with the sight of Seven Mile Bridge just off our starboard bow.
There’s a bit of a current upon entering the inlet, but we power thru and make it into the protected waters of the marina basin where we see a dockhand and Barry & Carol waiting to greet us at our slip. We haven’t seen them since Clearwater Beach, so it’s good to be back together.
Faro Blanco is a great spot to spend time in the keys and there are quite a few Loopers here, including some that come here to spend the entire winter docked right here. We also see that our other CT looper friends aboard Zoey’s Adventure are also here. We have danced around them ever since Killarney in Canada, but have not been docked at the same marina since. There’s also Mel and Anne aboard MorningStar II who are the self proclaimed harbor hosts here and they put together “docktails” every evening at 5pm. Tonight’s theme is ‘salads, without lettuce’ so at 5pm we meet and greet many boaters and feast on taco salads, fruit salads, bean salads, tuna salads, etc., you get the idea.
Back aboard Kailani, the air conditioning is on and the salon is very comfortable for the evening and we turn in at a decent hour and get ready to check out and enjoy the Florida Keys.
Tuesday: We’re not going anywhere today, but it is the last day for a while with projected calm seas. The forecasters are saying that the winds and seas will be above 20 mph with minimum 4 foot waves for the next few days, so we make arrangements with the Marins to stay at least thru the weekend. Also we are starting to finalize plans with Vic and Stephanie for them to come down to spend a week with us starting on April 7th. So we will be staying here in the keys for a while and plan to meet them on Key West when they arrive. So with our arrangements with Faro Blanco taken care of, we settle into our routine of R and R for a while.
The pool here is somewhat small, but very nice and it’s down three steps down from the indoor/outdoor Lighthouse Grill. So we have a lunch meal at the Grill, then spend the afternoon relaxing by the pool with looper friends.
For the evening, I spend the time socializing with Barry and Carol on their Sundeck while Tracy breaks out her fishing tackle as she has learned that its okay to fish from the fuel dock in the evening when there are no vessels docked there fueling up. Her catch tonight will be great enough to keep her motivated to stay right here and catch every fish in the harbor at least once! Ok, it’s time to admit what so many of you have probably surmised, Nick and I have very different hobbies. Nick loves, loves to chat and I adore fishing. Surprise!! -tc
Wednesday: Tonight’s docktails theme is ice cream as Mel had announced that he was making chocolate ice cream in their ice cream maker. So we showed up with a bowl of frozen grapes to compliment the ice cream and the docktails were especially delicious this evening. Right after docktails, we called for an Uber and went to Publix to re-stock our Galley.
Thursday: Winds are blowing strong today again as forecasted, but the temperature is still up there, so swimming in the pool is not curtailed and we again spend the afternoon, sunning, swimming and reading in loungers around the pool. Vessels tied along the entrance to the inlet are getting beat up pretty good. Wild Goose is near that area and although they are bouncing more than is usually comfortable, the Wild Goose is not dancing half as much as the boats closer to the open water area of the marina.
Friday: When I took my bicycle off the deck earlier in the week, I saw that my chain was rusted to the point of non-use, so today, I’m removing my chain and walking to the bike repair shop to get a replacement chain for my bike. I spend thirty minutes trying to get my rusted chain off so I can bring it with to get a proper match and after an unsuccessful attempt, I decide to simply walk the bike down to the repair shop and see if they can take it off for me. His bike chain had a section literally frozen in a right angle and could not move because of it -tc. So I push my bike the 2.3 miles down the road to the bike shop and the guy there couldn’t have been nicer. He insisted on removing and replacing my chain for me and refused to take any money for his labor. I even tried to give him a tip and he wouldn’t accept that. He just wanted me to be safe and have a working bike to enjoy. So with a new chain, I peddled the 2 plus miles back to the marina and in short order, I was back.
We spent a short afternoon at the pool as we needed to get prepared for our 4pm reservation at the Turtle Hospital for their 90 minute guided tour of the facility. So at 3:45 pm we were walking into the gift shop to purchase our tickets for the tour and at 4pm, Theresa called out to our group that the 4pm tour was starting and to follow her to the hospital entrance. From there, we got a guided tour of every one of the turtles housed here at the hospital from the two dozen that are categorized as not ever being able to be set back into the wild, to the 100 or so that are there for various surgical procedures and healing protocols before being returned to their original environment.
For instance, a turtle rescued from the waters of Sombrero Key would be returned to the exact spot in Sombrero Key after they were healed enough to be returned home. They always try to get the turtles back as near as possible to where they were rescued. So they have boats, ambulances, etc at their disposal for use when completing a rescue operation. This was amazing experience. This organization took of an old motel and using it’s swimming pool set up medical and rehab facilities for injured sea turtles. Some turtles had been injured by boats and some were babies who had gotten lost trying to find their way to the sea after hatching. However, the ones I found the most heartbreaking were the ones who were dying of starvation because they could not digest anything due to the fact they had so much plastic waste in their stomachs. Sea turtles love to munch on jellyfish and a floating plastic bag happens to look just like a jellyfish meal. -tc. After the tour was over, we asked Theresa for a card with the call in information for when boaters spot injured turtles. She gave us a refrigerator magnet card to keep aboard Kailani and hopefully, we will never have to use it, but if we ever see an injured turtle in the waters of the Florida Keys, we will now be able to call someone who is prepared and equipped to rescue that turtle.
(A little aside for out terrestrial turtle friends: If you see a turtle who has been hit by a car, even if the shell is cracked, the animal is likely still alive. Take the animal to a veterinarian or an animal shelter to be assessed and, if necessary, euthanized. Turtles have an extremely slow metabolism and can take days or weeks to die, even when they are severely injured. – tc)
On the way back to our marina, we went into 7 Mile Pizzeria where they make pizza and Cuban meals. We sat for a nice pizza, then walked back to Kailani for the evening. Again, I spent some time with Barry and Carol while Tracy tried for some more fish catches. We agreed with Barry and Carol that over the weekend, we’d both get our dinghies down and cruise over to Pigeon Key for an afternoon of snorkeling in the crystal clear waters of Pigeon Key below Seven Mile Bridge.
Saturday: A day of enjoying this lovely marina. Faro Blanco is a popular spot for loopers and some long term winter loopers, so it’s obvious that the feeling here is comfort and ease while enjoying the amenities. The wi-fi is strong, the pool is quaint but convenient, the dock facilities are modern and spectacular, ice, pump out and newspapers are all delivered to your slip daily if requested at no charge and there is a restaurant on site. Vessels of all sizes come and go in this marina, but Morning Star, Wild Goose, Zoey’s Adventure and Kailani are here throughout it all.
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!!
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.
Sunday: I give Frankie his morning walk across the street from the marina on the beach. I also wanted to check it out so if we decide to go over later in the day, I’ll be somewhat familiar with the path, etc. After returning to Kailani, we have a nice breakfast and the day is started.
Today we must go to the office and register, but unfortunately, so far we’ve gotten bad feedback from others staying here. Things like for staying at the marina portion of the resort, we’re not supposed to be allowed to use the beautiful pool or any of the other resort amenities! That just seems too awful to believe but Tracy gets ready to go and do battle with the manager while I make a call to the next marina stop in Cape Haze and find out of they can take us as early as tomorrow. That gets us out of here and also, gives the marina service department an extra day to look at our little electrical gremlins causing the non-working dinghy davit and the ‘low voltage’ switch in the engine room. I’m thinking that the ‘low voltage’ issue might be causing the dinghy malfunction. We’ll just have to wait and see on that score. I finally get word back from Aquamarina that they have a slip available for us tomorrow, so Tracy goes up to pay for our two days and find out about the pool. When she returns, she has two pool wrist bands and an agreement with the manager the she will provide them with a letter describing the expectations of a transient boater pulling into their ‘marina’ and how to correct the issues. All they really had at this time was a motel with private docks! Grrrrrr – tc
Then we meet a couple that is in the adjacent apartment from Michigan and the guy has led a storied life as he was a police officer for 32 years, then he worked personal security for an extremely wealthy and influential family for 9 years. In fact he has so many stories that he wrote a book and had it published. Soon he is walking back to his apartment and coming back with an autographed copy of his book for us. Really nice couple and great guy.
Later on, we take a walk on the beach and the water temperature in the gulf is pretty comfortable. Then we walk over to the resort pool and Tracy gets some sun while I start reading the new book about our new friend’s career as a police officer. While I’m reading about his life, he walks over to the pool and asks if we’re interested in having dinner with them and their other friends from Michigan. We accept and agree to meet at the grilling area at around 6:00pm.
Dinner is a simple hotdogs with macaroni & cheese and salad. We all bring our own hot dogs while we bring the mac & cheese and Joe & Nancy bring the salad. We enjoy some nice conversation with the two couples over the dinner, then all six of us return to Kailani so they can all see the interior.
They are aboard until 9:20pm, then we relax for the rest of the evening and go to sleep ready for a move tomorrow to Cape Haze.
Monday: The winds are stronger than we expected, so we discuss staying here one more day. The discussion involves a call to the next marina to see if we can move our reservation and that goes smoothly, and it involves asking the marina staff here if they have room for us to stay one more night and that goes equally as smooth, so we relax and make a day out of staying here.
In mid-afternoon, we take a bike ride to a local beach and tackle store where we find new flip-up sunglasses for me along with new sun visors for Tracy and then Tracy gets to discuss local fishing strategy with the clerk who is a fish charter captain. She then picks up some needed tackle and live bait to fulfill the captain’s advice and then we return to Kailani.
Now that we’re staying this extra day, we can make arrangements to visit the local Italian restaurant which is owned by some Connecticut natives that moved down here over 20 years ago and are also related to our financial advisor. He had told me that his cousins operated three Italian restaurants down here, Gratzzi Restaurant in St Petersburg, Angelo’s here in Venice and Carmelo’s in Punta Gorda. Well, we didn’t get a chance to try Gratzzi’s because the day we could go was Valentine’s Day and they were completely booked up, so getting a chance to try this location is much anticipated for me and now we’ll be able to go. So I make a reservation and then we enjoy the afternoon with our new friends from Michigan, Joe and Nancy Dubois.
Uber comes right on time and soon we’re walking into Angelo’s Restaurant and Italian Market for our 5pm reservation. Tracy gets a caesar salad and Linguini with oil and garlic sauce while I give the lasagna with homemade noodles a try. The desserts are delicious looking, but the entrees leave us no room for extra treats. After dinner, I walk up to the market counter and ask if any of the ownership family is in the store tonight and I get to meet and chat with the son and his wife and we have a nice time here.
Soon, we’re calling for another Uber to get us back to the marina and we sit with Joe and Nancy a bit before turning in to set our preparations for tomorrow’s cruise.
Tuesday: The winds are almost non-existent this morning and we only have 19 nautical miles to travel, so we sit for a while on Joe & Nancy’s porch enjoying some coffee prior to our departure. After coffees, Joe & Nancy come down to our slip and give us a hand with the lines so we can depart safely.
Leaving this marina is again, a plan based around high tide, so at 10:35 am we’re leaving the inlet with as much water under our keel as we’re going to get. Once we are turning out of the inlet heading south towards the Albee Road Bridge, we hear Hawley Rose calling for the bridge to open and they are also going south. The tender asks them to wait and call when they are closer, so I get into the conversation and let the bridge tender know that we’ll also be needing an opening, but we will accommodate Hawley Rose and wait for them to arrive before the tender has to open the bridge. That accommodation equates to less traffic jams and it goes appreciated by all. So we wait for Hawley Rose to cruise around the bend and the tender starts the preparations for a safe stop of the traffic and opening the bridge to give us more than the 14 feet available when the bridge is closed.
As we pass thru the opening and we both clear, the bridge tender lowers the span for the traffic and I call Hawley Rose and remind them that we had met last week in Gulfport Municipal Marina and they remembered us from then. The remainder of the day for us would not require any more bridge openings because they were either 24 feet or 30 feet, so once we were clear of the Albee Road Bridge, the rest of the day would be smooth.
Aquamarina Palm Harbor…Nice hey??? – tc
We had planned for a 4 hour cruise and 5 minutes short of 4 hours, we were pulling into our designated slip at Aquamarina Palm Harbour. We immediately recognized a looper burgee two slips away from us and we introduced ourselves to them and they are a couple that started their loop from Lake Huron and they set their plan for a 4 month stay here, so they will be here until the end of March when we will more than likely meet them again on the waters of the loop. They also told us that there would be docktails at 4:30 this afternoon with Ed and Kyle joining us. That was good to hear because we had scheduled the stop here mostly to be able to meet Ed and thank him for his guidance with email information when we were trying to negotiate the Black Warrior River from Demopolis to Mobile Bay. He is so familiar with those waters that he was able to read river level reports and guide us safely down the river with go-no go feedback.
Wednesday: We were supposed to get an electrical technician to troubleshoot our boat today, but they were extremely busy and when I talked with Renee the Service Manager, she told me that the tech would be aboard our vessel first thing Thursday morning, so that was fine with me.
In the late afternoon, we went to the pool and hot tub to get refreshed, then we went back to Kailani for a Netflix movie as the internet service is very good here. We selected the movie entitled “The Last Castle” with Robert Redford and James Gandolfini. It’s about a three Star General (Robert Redford) who is sent to a military prison which is run by James Gandolfini and the plot centers around the strong wills of the clashing personalities.
We turn in knowing that tomorrow we will be getting our little electrical gremlins fixed and then be able to lower the dinghy for some additional fun opportunities.
Thursday: Playing around in the marina today. The pool and hot tub are a great place to relax here so we take advantage of the weather and water temperature. We lower the dinghy today in preparation for some exploring tomorrow.
Friday: Today our new good friends Ed and Kyle are leaving for their northward trip back to Demopolis where they leave their vessel so they can drive up to their summer home in Canada. They have been very helpful ever since the time we reached Demopolis and I want to make sure I get over to their slip and say goodbye before they leave. In the forum this morning I’ve learned that the Black Warrior River is extremely high (higher that when we were there) and the Kingfisher Marina is currently closed because the water is three feet over the access road! But even with that knowledge, Ed and Kyle shove off and I do get to see them before they leave.
With the dinghy in the water, Tracy is chomping at the bit to get away from the marina and do some fishing. So we load up her fishing gear and head north on the ICW towards Stump Pass and out into the gulf. Once we are out of the pass and in the gulf, we turn south and just ride the coast in about 5 feet of water and Tracy fishes. Not a stinkin’ bite! -tc After some good catches and quite a bit of sun, we start heading back to the marina for the afternoon. Yup, more sun at the pool.
Saturday: With definite plans to cruise tomorrow, we decide to do some dry goods shopping at WalMart and some produce and dairy shopping at Publix. For the Walmart trip, we’ll need to use Uber, so after Tracy makes an appointment at the WalMart based Regis Hair Salon, YUP…Walmart for my hair LOL -tc we open up the Uber app and call for a ride. Once we’re at Walmart, Tracy goes into the salon for her hair appointment and I walk across the street to pick up some prescriptions at Walgreens, then walk back to WalMart and scour every aisle at least once while waiting for the hair dresser to finish up with Tracy. Finally she is done, her hair comes out real pretty and we grab a Subway sandwich before calling for a return Uber.
Once we’re back at the marina, we unload all the groceries onto Kailani, then I take the cart and four shopping bags (2 for cold and 2 for regular groceries) and start walking down to the local Publix. See we haven’t had good luck with WalMart dairy and produce, so with a local Publix, I decided to break up the shopping today. I had previously checked real quick for the store location and had remembered that it was just a mile plus, down the street. So it shouldn’t take long to get there, shop, then return. Boy, was I foolish not to verify! The Publix was actually 1.8 miles down the street and the sidewalk was on the sunny (really hot sun today) side of the street. So it was a sauna walk today to get to the Publix. 45 minutes later, I was entering the cool confines of the grocery store where I filled our cart with milk, bread, cold cuts, steak, chicken, macaroni, sauce, and some fruits to round out the bill. I also bought a cold water bottle to hydrate on the return walk.
The sun was a bit lower on the return trip so some of the walk was in shade and Google Maps said it would take 38 minutes to walk to the marina and it turned out to be exactly 38 minutes later when I was stepping onto Kailani to unload the groceries.
After all the cold items were in the fridge and/or freezer, we loaded up the fishing gear for one last trip here before we leave tomorrow. As we came out of the marina, we went straight across the ICW to a small inlet with all privately owned homes along both shores and Tracy caught a few fish and we saw some pretty sights also. It was slightly dark when we returned to our marina but the ferry was still running, so we had to make sure we avoided the ferry when we crossed the ICW.
Back aboard Kailani, we made our final cruise pans for tomorrow’s cruise to Cayo Costa Island, home of Cayo Costa State Park and some beautiful anchorages. It will only be 14 miles to the destination, so we’ll be able to take our time without feeling rushed in the morning.
Sunday: Regatta Pointe Marina is not on the ordinary path of loopers, however, there are two other looper vessels here in the marina. Truth be told, they are both wintering here and starting their loop in a short while soon. We also meet some of our neighbors in adjacent slips and this is a great place to spend a week.
Today, we are entertaining cousins, Chris and Marc Pegram who we look up every time we’re down here in or near Sarasota. They come aboard around noontime and we visit for quite a while aboard Kailani, then we all go over to the Riverhouse Reef & Grill Restaurant on the pier here in the marina. It’s a nice place for a lunch right on the water so visitors that don’t get an opportunity for a ride, can at least enjoy some of the scenery being out on the water. We have a great time with Chris and Marc and soon, we are saying our goodbyes so they can get home and Marc can rest his back.
Monday: Today is another day of loafing around and enjoying the now very warm Florida weather. We’ve been looking for this weather for quite some time and now it’s here and we love it! Shorts, tee-shirts and oftentimes, barefoot. The marina is located quite nicely for Tracy to scope out some good fishing spots over by the bridge.
That’s exactly where we go as the sun is setting. We walk over to the pedestrian portion of the bridge from Palmetto to Bradenton and Tracy sets up her fishing tackle while I surf on my smartphone. Tonight is not a stellar night for her but she does catch a few catfish anyway. Then we walk back to Kailani for the evening.
Tuesday: Today is a special treat for me as Dennis and I are going to George M Steinbrenner Field in Tampa for the New York Yankees opening day of full squad practice for Spring Training. The park is open to all fans with no admission required and everyone in attendance gets to see all the current and potentially new Yankees work out on fielding, throwing and batting practice.
Dennis and I get a nice day out of it and walk the entire ballpark to avoid the sun as it moves in the sky.
We spend a few dollars in the Team Store and then leave around 3:30pm to avoid the rush hour traffic leaving Tampa later on tis afternoon. Dennis drives me back to the marina and when I get out, he confirms that Terry will pick me up in the morning to get me to the golf course. Tracy & I have a nice dinner aboard and then go out fishing for the evening again.
Wednesday: I’m up early as I prepare my golf stuff for a day on the course with some other men and women from Dennis and Terry’s community at Tropic Isles. There are usually about 16 people that show up on Wednesdays for the golf, and I’m able to get into one of the foursomes to enjoy the friendship and golf with Jim, Bruce and Fred.
We all have a great time on this hot Wednesday and after all players are back in the pub enjoying some cocktails, I find out that I had the best score of the day at 70 strokes over a par 62 course. I felt like I was playing fairly well and scoring a lot of pars, so it make sense to be close to the lowest score. Anyway, another bunch of guys drove me back to the marina and my game of golf was over for the day.
The late afternoon was taken up doing some laundry and fishing again.
Thursday: This might be our last day here in Palmetto unless we decide to stay another day or two and as it comes time to decide, we agree to spend at least one more day here at Regatta Point. So we plan for getting a pump out on Friday, and doing some shopping at WalMart if Dennis will be available to take us tomorrow. Then we enjoy one more day in Palmetto Paradise.
Friday: Dennis comes at 10:30am to pick us up for a run to WalMart. We get a chance to stock up on some paper goods and snacks, then he brings us back to the marina to store the perishables while he goes home and picks up Terry and returns to the marina where we get in again and we head out to Bradenton and more specifically, Cortez Beach where we will take them out to lunch to thank them for their generosity and driving accommodations all week enabling us to enjoy so much of the Palmetto area.
They are targeting a restaurant called Swordfish Grill and when we get there, the wait is not too bad at 20 minutes, so we walk around the marina area of the restaurant and meet some Canadians who are aspiring to do the loop and Tracy and I tell them all about our experiences and the friends we’ve made along the way. After that, as we’re almost ready to walk into the restaurant, we see these five gentlemen walking out in identical light blue tee shirts with a ROMEO logo on the right breast. As soon as they all walk past us, we turn around and see on the back of their shirts: “Retired Old Men Eating Out”! That’s awesome and I want to get one of those shirts and join the club haha.
Anyway, we have a great lunch at Swordfish Grill
and soon, we’re talking about leaving tomorrow and having Dennis accompany us while Terry drives down to Venice to pick him up later in the day. We finalize that plan and agree to have Dennis aboard by 8am tomorrow. After the restaurant, we drive by the beach and take a short walk in the warm sand of Cortez beach, then back to the car and return to the marina.
For our last night in Palmetto, we walk over to the Boater’s Lounge and use the better WiFi service to watch an older movie called Michael with John Travolta as an angel. It’s a nice way to spend our last evening here and afterwards, we walk back to Kailani and get her ready for tomorrow’s departure.
Saturday: While I’m walking Frankie this morning, Dennis and Terry show up, so Dennis & I walk back to Kailani where Tracy is getting this morning’s preparations underway already. Soon she has Dennis helping with lines while I prepare the helm for departure. After Dennis and Tracy have all the lines doubled back onto the vessel for departure and I have the helm read with NEBO activated and SpotGen3 turned on, we are ready for departure. At 9am we are backing out of the slip and headed back out the Manatee River towards Tampa Bay and the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway south.
Today’s cruise is anticipated to be 5 hours long and 37 nautical miles. We will have some ‘no wake’ zones to negotiate and only 1 of the 6 bridges we pass under will have to be opened. Just 5 miles before our destination, we have to pass thru the Blackburn Point Swing Bridge which is only 9 feet tall when closed. As we are approaching the area that has this bridge, we pick up some other vessels calling the bridge tender asking for an opening, so we jump into the conversation and ask if we will be able to clear the bridge in the next swing even though we are still a mile away. The bridge tender says he still has to wait for a safe opportunity to stop traffic for the swing to open, so keep coming and see how it all works out. As we are about a half mile away, we see that the swing is still closed, so we give Kailani a few more rpm’s and increase our speed and just as we are approaching the ‘no wake’ zone for the swing, the bridge tender starts his opening, so we made our timing just about as perfect as we could ever plan and soon we’re through the span with no delays.
4 miles after that we are entering the small inlet for Escape at Casey Key Resort and Marina. Tracy had called them earlier and we will be looking for slip #11 once we’re within the marina. The entry water is sort of shallow, so we slowly make our way into the marina inlet where the water gets deeper, then look for slip #11. After scoping out the best procedure for getting into the slip, Tracy takes Dennis down to the stern to help with lines as I prepare Kailani to back her into the slip. After the three of us have done our jobs and Kailani is tied up, we start working on hooking up the utilities and find that the power tower for our slip has both 30 amp receptacles used up by the boat currently in the adjacent slip. So Tracy checks in with the office and finds out that they have another slip available further down that has a 50 amp connection. So we move Kailani down to slip #3 and all is well once we’re finally all tied up.
After tying up, I try to get the dinghy down from the roof and we find out that the davit crane won’t work, so I have a new project to add to my to-do list, but at least we’re all tucked in and the air conditioning is on and cooling down the Salon.
We say our goodbyes to Dennis and Terry and we now will look forward to 3 days of relaxation in the Casey Key/Venice Beach area. Tonight will definitely be a ‘pizza delivered to the boat’ kind of night.
Sunday: Beach Day!!! We head to Clearwater Beach for the day and enjoy spectacular sunshine and beautiful temperatures as Natalie and Brianna romp in the powdery white sands. The water temperature is still a bit cool, but both girls do get wet and enjoy some fun time on the beachside water slides. After we’re done with the water slides, we get a bite to eat, then go to the Clearwater Marina Aquarium to see all the rescued sea creatures including Winter the tail-less dolphin from movie fame. Everyone has a great time and its not hard to get everyone to sleep when we return to Kailani.
Monday: Mickey Day. We all get ready for the early morning drive to Orlando and DisneyWorld.
The temperatures are a bit hot and the sun is high and bright, so sunscreen is applied liberally on all exposed skin and off we go. Once at the park and thru the entire process of having bags inspected and ferry boat rides to the Magic Kingdom, we are finally entering the park one hour and fifteen minutes after leaving the parking lot. Net we rent a scooter for Tracy so she’ll be able to make it thru the entire day, then we head into the park for rides. Long story but all is well, I just did not want to hold anybody up. -tc Tracy try to get used to the scooter, but realizes that she has to spend so much effort watching for pedestrians, that she’s missing the sights, so we return to the rental area and switch from a scooter to a wheelchair and that makes all the difference as now she’s able to enjoy herself.
Nick and Dede had pre-arranged for certain times to get into certain rides, so our wait times were not that bad even though there were around 55,000 visitors on a school day! All six of us, from 6 to 66 have a wonderful time and it’s a great way to spend their last full day here in Tampa.
After the Main Street Parade in the afternoon, everyone’s pretty tired from all the sun and walking, so we make our way towards the shops and finish the day in the park with some moments of the trip to Disney World. The 90 minute drive back to the marina is not entirely quiet as nobody falls asleep, but while we are driving, Nick and Dede start trying to decide about pushing up their departure tomorrow to try and beat a snow and sleet storm predicted for Connecticut tomorrow afternoon. Their present tickets will get them into CT right in the middle of the storm when the snow changes to sleet and freezing rain. So they end up deciding to try and get out early in the morning on a direct flight that will get them back into CT before the storm starts. If they kept their original tickets, there is a strong possibility they would get stranded in Baltimore later in the day. So once we’re back aboard Kailani, Nick calls Southwest and confirms tickets for the 7am direct flight to Bradley and now they must make sure everything is packed tonight because they will have to leave the hotel by 5am tomorrow so they can return the rental car and make their new flight.
Tracy and I help and stay out of their way all at the same time while the girls go to sleep and Nick & Dede complete the packing. I spend a bit of time setting up our cruise plan for tomorrow as we will be departing also for Gulfport Municipal Marina. The low tide window for the South Harbor Island Fixed Bridge is 12:30 pm on Tuesday, so our departure will not conflict with getting the family out first. We all agree to wake up at 4:20 am and go to bed.
Tuesday: The entire Kailani crew is awake and moving by 4:20am as planned and by 5am the flyers are outside the valet station waiting for the Ford Expedition to come out of the parking garage for their trip to the airport. After they are all packed up and we say our goodbyes, they drive towards the airport and Tracy & I return to Kailani for the morning. We will be leaving today so I work on preparing for the 11:30 am departure that will get us thru the fixed bridge at low tide.
While we are preparing Kailani for departure, we get a text from Nick & Dede at 9:30am saying that they have safely landed at Bradley International and it isn’t even snowing yet! In fact the snow doesn’t start until they are pulling into their driveway and safely home. Amazing, they get back into their warm home in CT before we leave the marina today. Also, their fears of being stranded in Baltimore are realized as reality because when they landed in CT they checked the flight board and all flights from Baltimore to Bradley on Southwest were cancelled for today.
We continue our procedures for departure and at 11:30am Tracy is taking us off the dock and thru the bridge.
Again, I am up on the roof verifying that we will clear the structure because today, the low tide is relatively high. In fact we clear the bridge with about 4” to spare this time and Tracy draws clapping and compliments from boat captains on shore getting their touring boats ready for the day’s customers.
We expect today’s cruise to be 4 hours and in fact, we are pulling into Gulfport Marina after 3 hours and 50 minutes of cruise time. We stop at the fuel dock for a pump out because we haven’t had one since before the family arrived. Tracy does her usual great job and soon, we are storing towards our slip on the transient dock with 2 empty black water holding tanks. We are anxious in anticipation of hooking up to the marina’s shore power and getting good power with no tripping of the circuits.
As hoped, once we are all secured and utilities are connected, we see that the power service has returned to our normal configuration and without the newer 3 milliamp ground fault breakers, our power stays good and active for the entire time we stay at this marina. It appears that our entire power issue at the Tampa Marriott Waterside Marina was a direct result of the 3 milliamp ground fault connections and the one cord we have that showed 4 milliamps was the tripper for the circuits there. It’s a welcome relief to be back to our normal. We will still have to have an electrician locate and correct our power leakage, but for now, as long as we stay at marinas with the 10 milliamp ground faults, we should be fine.
As soon as we are all settled in, we make contact with our Mississippi River friend(s) Bill Ackerman and Jim Tholen. Bill and his wife, Valerie meet us at the marina and we drive to O’Maddys on the water where Jim has met us and the five of us have a great time sharing stories and enjoying some great food.
Once back aboard Kailani, we turn in for some well earned shut-eye.
Wednesday: Bill meets us at the marina and we head out to the Imagination Museum in St Petersburg. Here there is two floors of displays of glass artwork done by some of the most famous glasswork artists of the last fifty years. Its amazing what they can do with glass.
Afterwards after Valerie has met up with us, we go out for a quick lunch, then we bring Tracy back to the marina while Bill & I run some needed errands to West Marine, Home Depot and AutoZone. In the evening, Bill and Valerie return and pick me up and the three of us go to Boyd Nature Preserve to hear a free lecture on the origin and geology of Florida. I learn that the land known as Florida, was originally a piece of the western African coast and when the continents collided in the Pre-Cambrian era, the limestone peninsula of Florida attached itself to North America and when Africa receded, a bit of it was left attached to the continental United States. So again, Tracy has always loved Africa and has wanted to go to someplace like Morocco for the longest time. Now I can tell her that she’s been there! The lecture is over before long and we return to the marina.
Thursday: Valentines Day and Tracy and I spend a nice quiet day aboard Kailani in the morning, then we take an Uber to do some shopping. While we are out we decide to have a late lunch at a TGI Fridays that we are walking past. This will be our Valentine Dinner to each other, then we’ll have a light dinner later aboard Kailani.
Friday: This morning, Bill and Valerie are back picking us up at 9am for breakfast and we go to downtown Gulfport to Stella’s and enjoy a nice breakfast on the sidewalk seating area. After breakfast, Tracy and Valerie do some shopping at the adjacent store and Tracy is able to find a dress that she likes and she will wear the new dress to Kim’s wedding.
Soon, we are back at the marina where we say our good-bye’s to Bill and Valerie and return to Kailani to prepare for departure. I re-load the bikes aboard Kailani and we prepare the lines for departure. Again, we depart at 11:30am for a scheduled 4 hour cruise.
We cross the Boca Ciega Bay and it’s shallow waters, then cruise out into Tampa Bay. There is a shortcut that is a narrow channel adjacent to the Sunshine Skyway Causeway that saves 10 miles on the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, but we want to go the extra 10 miles and have an opportunity to pass under the span of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. That’s exactly what we do and I’m able to get some great video of Tracy at the helm driving Kailani under the span right after a large commercial tanker has passed under the span coming from sea into the bay.
Exactly 4 hours after departure, we are pulling into Regatta Pointe Marina in Palmetto, Florida. We have been assigned slip E52 and it’s a wide and deep slip obviously designed for a much larger vessel, but Paul says he doesn’t have any other more appropriate slips for us, so we’ll just have to get used to their southern hospitality. We are all tied up and meet some of our dock neighbors who are very friendly and anxious to hear about our adventures on America’s Great Loop. We always appreciate the opportunities to relate our adventure to others.
Soon, Dennis and Terry Foley are approaching the dock and we must meet them at the security gate to let them in. After a few hours visiting on board, they leave to return home and Tracy & I look to get some dinner before the crowds get too large. We miss the opportunity to avoid crowds and after a sorta long wait, we are seated in theft marina restaurant facing out into the Manatee River. It turns out to be a spectacular view across to Bradenton.
We share a calamari appetizer, then Tracy has a shrimp with Linguini and I get a Hawaiian Chicken. Afterwards, we take the short walk back to the dock and relax for a nice quiet evening and turn in early for the evening.
Saturday: Our good friends Dennis and Terry will spend the day with us. First they pick us up and we tour the tip of Snead Island by car. Emerson Point Preserve occupies the entire northwest tip of Snead Island and there is beautiful scenery with some beach area, bird watching, botany, butterflies and oyster shell mounds.
We walk nearly the entire park except we save the observation tower for another day as we want to get back to their house for lunch.
Dennis and Terry have put out a nice cold cut sandwich bar for everyone to make their own sandwich and we have a great time chatting and learning about retirement life in the Palmetto Florida community. After lunch and a lit of socializing, Dennis drives us back to the marina via the local Publix Market and we take the opportunity to restock our galley.
Back on Kailani for the evening, we watch a DVD called ‘Now You See Me” and its very entertaining. Sleep comes easily after a full day in the Florida sunshine. Dennis has already gotten back to me with two activities for the week. First, he and I will go to George M Steinbrenner Field on Tuesday for opening day of spring training. Its the first day of training for the New York Yankees and there is no charge for admission. Also, he got me hooked up with a bunch of other residents of his Tropic Isles Community that are playing golf on Wednesday. He will pick me up, get me to the golf course, then one of the golfers will drive me back at the end of the round, so that will be fun. We go to bed looking forward to enjoying a week in this area.
Sunday: One final day in Tarpon Springs before moving on. We want to see the Cathedral of St Nicholas so since it’s Sunday, we’ll have to wait until after 1:30pm and the Sunday services are over.
We ride our bikes down to the cathedral, visit the interior and study the stained glass windows with Greek writings.
Once were done there, we ride a few blocks over to Craig Park on Spring Bayou looking for Manatee’s. It’s a beautiful park surrounded with Victorian era homes, but the Manatee’s are not around. So its just a nice ride thru some beautiful greenery and scenery.
The rest of the afternoon is spent cleaning up some of the stuff we’ve unloaded off the boat after being here for 5 days. In the evening we are able to hear the roars of the bar crowds that are watching the Super Bowl and later we find out that watching the game must’ve been the equivalent of watching paint dry as the score ended up 13-3 with the Patriots beating the Rams.
Monday: Today we plan out our cruise day for a trip to Clearwater Beach Marina. It’s a short 18 mile cruise on the intracoastal waterway and the seas and winds will cooperate very nicely for the duration of the cruise. We confirm our reservation and Kailani and Wild Goose prepare for a mid morning departure.
All our lines are doubled back to the boat cleats and I clear our bill with the marina. Its actually a very nice day so we open all windows on the bridge and sunroom for the first time in a very long time. This is a nice break for us as it signals much better weather. By 10:50am Kailani and Wild Goose are pulling away from the docks and headed out the Anclote Creek towards the GIWW (Gulf Intracoastal Waterway). This is a quite long no wake area before we’re out into the bay but its very comfortable today and again, we only have 18 miles to go today.
Once were out into the channel of the GIWW, we decide to open her up for a little scheduled blow-by on the engines. And soon, we’re about a mile ahead of Wild Goose. As we are approaching the waters of Dunedin, we must verify the air draft (overhead clearance) of the Honeymoon Island Bascule Bridge, so I call the bridge tender on VHF 09 and he verifies that there is 24 feet below the bridge in the center. So I tell him that that’s plenty of air draft for us and we’ll just go slowly thru the span, but we will not need an opening. He thanks us for the info and we pass under with room to spare.
As usual, we have some nice runs with dolphins as they seem to be in great spirits for playing today. The boat traffic on the GIWW is not great with a few fishing boats, some trawlers, and a few go-fast boats, but not a lot of congestion in any spot of the trip. We try to slow down for most of the vessels as we are passing by them so our wake will not be problematic to the other vessels. Each vessel that realizes what we’ve done by slowing down gives us a wave of appreciation in return. Some of them actually slow down in kind.
By 1:00pm we are passing under the Clearwater Beach Bridge and turning to starboard to enter the channel for the marina. We negotiate the entire marina channel in idle speed even though we do not see any signs indicating ‘no wake zone’.
Once we are looking at our assigned slip, we seem to be being influenced by the local winds and current. It takes me four turns (see Nebo report) to get Kailani’s tail lined up with the pilings of our slip, but the 2 dock hands wait patiently for our 4 attempts at backing in straight in the wind. After we’re all tied up and utilities attached, I spend about 30 minutes on the line with Larry O and he says that stopping to meet them at St Pete Beach would work for them on Wednesday, So we’ll stay here until Wednesday morning, then cruise down to St Pete Beach to spend the day with Larry and Carol. This is running into very dear friends that we met on the loop and here, nearly a year later, we’ll get a chance to catch up again in person at Larry’s American Legion Hall.
We make sure the boat is secure and suddenly, Barry and Carol are approaching our vessel in their dinghy. We wait for them to arrive, help them tie up and unload their bikes. They go out for a bike ride and we take a walk to the beautiful Clearwater Beach and Pier 60 for some sightseeing. The pier has street vendors and a bait and tackle shop while the beach and park area are loaded with sun worshipers and street entertainers. The show we watch is a father and son where the son is a double jointed contortionist who can climb completely thru a tennis racket frame! Then for his final act, he is put into a straight jacket, then wrapped in 50 feet of chain then the chain is double locked. Then his father describes that he will get out of this restraint in less than 3 minutes and Nick, the son precedes to wriggle and thrash about working himself free of the chain, then the straightjacket and he completes it all in 2 minutes and 45 seconds!
Afterwards we meet Barry and Carol aboard Kailani and get ready for dinner. We walk up to the Salt Cracker Restaurant right here at the marina and have a delicious meal with Cuban Pork, Jumbalaya, Ribeye and double stuffed bacon cheeseburger. After this late dinner, Barry and Carol dinghy back to Wild Goose to get a good night’s sleep for their departure tomorrow towards Bradenton. We will stay one more day in port to get tons of laundry done before Nick & Dede show up on Thursday.
Tuesday: Barry & Carol depart in a mild fog headed for Bradenton while Rick & Kris aboard Eagle One depart for an outside run down the coast avoiding ‘no wake zones’. By the afternoon, Barry & Carol aboard Wild Goose are at their destination while Eagle One has returned to our marina because the fog was too thick over the ocean.
We stay in port today to get all our laundry done and with the condition of the machines at the marina laundromat, it will take all day to get it done. After getting the first loads in, Tracy spends much of the day trying to nurse her shoulder while I return to the wash numerous times to get it all washed and dried. By dark we have all our laundry washed, dried, folded and put away!
In the afternoon two looper vessels show up, Sea Jamm with Alan and Sherry, who we first met last year in Utsch’s Marina, and Ron and Debbie aboard Carpe Diem who we first met in Demopolis last month. Both made an overnight crossing from Carabelle to Clearwater and both couples were anxious for a nap to catch up on much needed sleep. The Gulf weather is spectacular all week and our friends aboard the Journey and Red Pearl are leaving Carabelle this afternoon for the overnight crossing into Tarpon Springs on Wednesday afternoon.
We spend a nice relaxing evening preparing for our cruise tomorrow where our goal will be to meet up with Larry and Carol of Sea Life for lunch in their homeport of St Pete Beach, then continue on around to the east side of St Petersburg in Tampa Bay to spend the evening at St Petersburg Municipal Marina.
Wednesday: We fully expect there to be some fog this morning, but the temperature rises so quickly that there isn’t a chance for fog to drop in. This is a good thing because it means we will be able to leave exactly when we want to make our lunch meeting with Larry & Carol. Larry lets us know that it should take between 1 1/2 to 2 hours to get there, so we leave at exactly 10:00am and soon we are pulling into the American Legion docks in St Pete’s Beach with Larry waiting on the dock to grab the lines from Tracy. We find out that Carol will not be able to make it because she volunteers at tax time helping AARP members with their taxes. So Larry, Tracy and I enjoy a nice lunch, spend 2 hours together, then we cast our lines and head for the east side of St Petersburg and the St Petersburg Municipal Marina. We have changed our strategy to go a bit longer today, then tomorrow, we’ll be closer to our destination where we must be at the fixed bridge in downtown Tampa right at low tide in order to fit under it. With low tide scheduled for 10:05am tomorrow, we feel the closer we are to the bridge, the better chance we have of timing it correctly.
So we cruise around the southern tip of St Petersburg and up into Tampa Bay to our destination. Many of the sites we see during this cruise are familiar to us as this is where we stayed four years ago when we were shopping for Kailani.
At 4:30pm we are pulling into the marina and we go to the pump out dock to be completely empty for tomorrow’s guests, then we fill the tanks so Kailani will sit just a bit lower in the water when going under the bridge we mentioned. And at 5:20pm we are all tied up at our slip assignment for the night. We spend the evening doing some chores in preparation for Nick, Dede and the girl’s arrival tomorrow afternoon. We are looking forward to a great time with them.
Thursday: I start my day a bit early today because we must leave the slip by 8am so we can make the South Harbor Island Fixed Bridge in downtown Tampa right at low tide which today, is at 10:09am. So I’m walking Frankie at 6:30am to get his business out of the way before we start our pre-departure preparations. We’re getting real good at this because Kailani is pulling out of the slip at exactly 8am and heading east out of St Petersburg headed towards the Tampa Bay shipping channel.
The bay is extremely quiet today and we do not see any other vessels until we are turning to due north and heading up into downtown Tampa. There two miles ahead of us is a large freighter with a tug behind and another tug on the starboard side accompanying the freighter out of the harbor. As we approach the freighter we are both giving up the port side for the pass, so with the Tampa skyline in the backdrop, we pass this freighter port to port and continue on our opposite courses. After that freighter passes, there are no other large commercial ships in the channel so we have a completely clean path towards downtown Tampa and the Tampa Marriott Waterside.
Now to get into the marina area of the complex we must pass under a fixed bridge called the South Harbor Island Fixed Bridge. The charts all state that this bridge has a vertical clearance of 10 feet and Kailani is 16’-9”! However, the charts are incorrect and the bridge is actually 16 feet at high tide and 18 feet at low tide. Hence our strategy to arrive at dead low tide for the most headroom possible. As we are coming due north up the channel before we turn to starboard to face the bridge, Tracy takes over the helm and I don a PFD and climb up on the roof to watch for our actual clearance because they do not have elevation boards on this bridge. Our planning is spot on and actually, I’m able to stand up on the secondary roof, so we actually have more than 19 feet of clearance today.
Once we’re under the bridge, we are turning Kailani around to back into our assigned slip #14. While we are securing our lines, a couple walks by on the Riverwalk and speaks to Tracy about how they envy our lifestyle and Tracy invites them down to come aboard and see our ‘home’. Turns out they are in town for an Orthopedic Surgeons Convention and the husband is exactly that. So we mention the soreness Tracy has been dealing with in her shoulder and he takes a look at it for her and confirms her suspicions that its all in the muscle tissue and will eventually subside and she will be better. The couple is from Odessa Texas and we have a real nice time with them aboard.
After Kailani is all secured and they get back to walking the Riverwalk, we go up to the front desk for the check-in process. If any of you following us remember the issues we had staying last April at the Savannah Westin, today, here at the Tampa Marriott Waterside is the exact opposite as they really have there plan worked out for handling guests at the marina. We are assigned a room number (#114, the 1 for the marina and the 14 for our slip number) and issued three room keys for access to the pools, gyms, etc. and we can make purchases throughout the hotel and charge them to our room number. This is spectacular and we feel impelled to check it out right away as we are leaving the front desk, we walk over to the Starbucks and buy some hot sandwiches which we charge to our ‘room’ and it works perfectly!!! Now isn’t that simple.
After we return to Kailani, Tracy decides to rest her shoulder and I take the cart over to the local Publix Market and re-stock some of our galley. The rest of the galley will be filled with the Amazon Now order this afternoon that Nick & Dede ordered yesterday. They found out that the service was available to the marina and wanted to try it out, so before leaving CT, they placed a food order of foods that the girls like and had it delivered to us at the marina prior to their arrival.
At 3:45pm I receive an email from Nick saying that the food order has been delivered, so I walk up to the Front Desk and ask for my food delivery. Absolutely everyone says that there has not been a delivery for Nick from Amazon Now. They suggest that I check with the UPS Business Center upstairs so I walk up there and they have the same answer. So I walk back to the boat frustrated and food less!
Tracy steps in and makes a call to Amazon in Seattle and she talks to a guy who apologizes for any inconvenience and offers to credit the cost of the food plus an extra $10 for the inconvenience. So with a credit applied, I tried one more time to find the food and at the front desk, they were able to determine that the food they thought was for ‘Drew’ was actually the food for ‘Nick” and I walked out of the hotel and back to the boat with three bags of free food.
After we unpacked all the food from Publix and Amazon. Now, we got ready to go up to the front entrance and greet the arrivals from the airport. Unfortunately, there is a lot of construction around the area of the Tampa Marriott, so Nick had a hard time actually getting to the hotel. They were trying to find a road that would get them to our location almost as long as they were in the air from Baltimore to Tampa. Once they arrived they were very tired, but also very hungry, so we went right into the Waterside Grill and had the buffet so we could get food right away.
After the buffet, we had the bags delivered to the boat and we all walked down to the marina slips to get the kids set up in their beds. Soon the girls were tucked in for the night and we were able to relax and enjoy Nick & Dede arriving safely for their vacation. We decided on our strategy of activities for tomorrow and all turned in early-early-is for the night.
Friday: Today we have decided to spend the day at the pool with its heated water and hot tub. We rent a cabana type chaises lounge and that gives us a chance to sit poolside without anyone getting sunburnt.
In the afternoon, we take a dolphin cruise on a boat right next to the marina and we end up sighting a few dolphins so everyone is excited that they got to see some dolphins. On the way back to the dock, the Captain takes us by Derek Jeter’s House. 32,000 square feet and mostly empty since Derek bought the Miami team and spends most of his time there.
After the dolphin cruise, the kids got in a bit more swimming and we ordered pizza delivery to the boat for a nice dinner. We chose Eddy and Sal’s Pizza and when we went up to the front to wait for the delivery, all the valet drivers told us that it’s the best pizza in Tampa, so I guess we can still pick out a good pizza!
Saturday: Today we head to the Tampa Fun Zone-Grand Prix. We spend the morning riding go-karts and playing miniature golf. Brianna and Natalie also show off their skills on the trampoline. Luckily there’s a 125 pound limit so we don’t have to talk Nick out of going on!
In the afternoon, we head out to Big Bend Power Station on Apollo Beach and visit the Manatee Viewing Center. This is a popular spot for Manatees in the colder water winter months because the manatees will all congregate near the outflow of the power plant where the water is extremely comfortable for them. We don’t have much luck viewing any manatees, but there are more dolphins, possibly some sharks and later the facility has a manta ray petting tank and the girls get a chance to pet a ray.
After returning to the marina, we take another dip in the rooftop pool to refresh.