January 18 - Sarasota was beautiful and we loved spending time with Bob and Shirley.
We left at about 8 AM with an anchorage about 30 miles south in mind for the night. As often happens, we changed our mind en route. Checking the weather forecast for the next few days we realized that some blustery weather was coming in the next evening. One of our dock mates at Sarasota had strongly recommended an anchorage at Pelican Bay which was about 25 miles beyond the anchorage we originally had in mind. We decided to keep going on to Pelican Bay so we'd have a shorter run the next day to Ft. Myers and a mooring ball.
We arrived at Pelican Bay in the early afternoon and tiptoed into the area around shallow water. (Skipper Bob's description of how to get into the Bay is right on!) There were probably 20 boats anchored in the area but plenty of room for everyone. The Bay is situated between a small island and the Cayo Costa State Park. We got the dinghy down for the first time this trip and took Lucy in for a visit to the park.
The next morning we saw this group of day-trippers being ferried into the park.
January 19 - Saturday morning found us surrounded by fog. We waited until about 9:30 to take Lucy ashore...and left the Bay around 10:00. We were headed for Ft. Myers Beach and a few days tied to a mooring ball.
We really took to the mooring idea! We dinghy-ed in a couple of times a day for Lucy or to explore the city. We had some rough winds while in Ft. Myers Beach, but the mooring ball made it OK to be "on the hook." Here we are in the harbor.
Both Wayne and I agree that we could seriously spend some time down in Ft. Myers Beach. One day we walked across the bridge and all the way to Winn Dixie and West Marine for a few supplies. (It was a pretty long walk...we took the trolley back to the bridge.)
One evening we swapped boat tours with a 1976 Californian, Divine, that was moored next to us. Vivienne and Brian Fellows are from Belleville, Ontario, Canada, and have spent a lot of time on the water. We're hoping to see them later this year when we're up in Canada.
Brian and Vivienne are doing a lot of refurbishing on their boat. One thing they did was remove the carpet from the inside stairs. We really like that idea...and so have removed the carpet from the stairs going down into our galley. We got all the staples and carpet tacks out. Now we just need to sand and re-stain. Just what we needed...a project!
Here's a picture of Divine anchored in the Ft. Myers mooring field.
You might wonder about the process of getting Lucy to shore for a walk twice daily when we're anchored out or mooring. (Yes...we had intended to use the litter box. And Lucy seemed likely to comply. We just didn't like it sitting out on the back deck. It does tend to accumulate an odor.) We have a life jacket for her with a handle on the back to make lifting her into and out of the dinghy easier. Usually we both go on the trip to shore with Lucy since she really likes to sit in someones lap. (Yes, we accommodate the dog in a lot of matters.) Anyway, we all get in the dinghy...with plastic pick-up-the-poop bags, her leash...and head for shore. Usually with a mooring field there's a dock nearby for the dinghies. When anchored out, you just have to go up on shore most times and tie the dinghy off best you can. Weather is the dinghy's enemy, of course. If it's raining, foggy or really windy we're probably going to wear our waterproof gear to and fro. Here's Lucy in her life vest...and the dinghy dock at Ft. Myers Beach.
I finally got some great shots of dolphins on the trip down from Sarasota!
January 24 - We stayed at Ft. Myers Beach until the morning of January 24. The local boating hang-out, Bonita Bill's, was having a big party on that Friday night in honor of "Bobby Burns' birthday." We hated to miss it, but felt the need to move on. Are you getting the idea that these boaters are very gregarious people??
A fog had moved in that Thursday morning, but every weather forecast we could find said it would clear up around nine o'clock. We were headed down to the Naples City Dock about 30 miles down the coast and planned to run "outside" in the Gulf. We left the mooring ball and made our way over to Ballard's Oil in the harbor to top off with fuel at $3.19/gallon...a real deal down here. The guy at Ballard's said, yes, the fog would lift. It was 10 o'clock when we left his dock and the fog was still there. The fog stayed with us until late that afternoon. We did run outside...in the fog...with the radar running...and visibility of about a mile (deja vu of the crossing, all over again.)
We got to Naples with no problems, though, and stopped at the fuel dock to do a pump out before going to our slip. I practiced my skills in docking by pulling into the slip. It took a few tries, but I did it...and without harm to us or the boat. Have I told you what a patient man Wayne is??? With all this anchoring out, it's hard to get the docking practice in!
Naples was beautiful, simply put. Blue skies, warm weather, and a cool breeze. We took care of our "life chores," as Cheryl Travis calls them, on Friday: grocery shopping and laundry. Saturday I took Lucy-fur in for a grooming while Wayne washed the boat and we ate lunch out. Sunday we vegged. I painted, Wayne tinkered on the boat and read some. Jim Hemphill, our crossing companion, called to say he and Pam were in Tampa looking at boats. They found one they really liked and it sounded as though they were ready to have a survey done and make an offer. Jim said he was observing our boat from a webcam at the Naples City Dock. He had Wayne step out on deck to make sure it was us...and it was! Jim sent this image by email.
January 28 - We loved Ft. Myers...but we also loved Naples. I see a trend here. We could have stayed much longer...but there's a 4-day limit at the dock. You can go out a night and then come back for 4 days (up to 8 total in a month's time), but we decided to just go on down to Marco Island, about 12 miles down the coast, to start our leg of the trip down to the Keys. We would anchor one or two nights in Factory Bay at Marco then run outside to Little Shark River. Marco Island was OK, but not exceptional, in our opinion. Lots of screened in areas on the houses that bordered the bay. I'm thinking there might be a bug problem here during certain months. Shopping was convenient, though, after a short walk from the Marco River Marina.
January 29 - The weather forecast looked good...a small threat of some winds going from 5-10 to 10-15 in the afternoon. We got up at 7 AM with the idea of leaving today for Little Shark. We took Lucy in for her morning walk and talked with the people at the marina about the weather predictions. They had heard it was a little "iffy" for that afternoon...a possibility of some wind. We decided to kick back for the day and wait until Wednesday to leave. We took Lucy back to the boat and came back to shore for a walk into the shopping area and lunch. Tomorrow we'll likely head out for Little Shark River.