Thursday, February 10, 2011

Sarasota, FL, to Ft. Myers Beach, FL

At last, we're ready to check in again on the blog! Here's they way we made our way from Sarasota to Ft. Myers Beach...

We totally enjoyed our time in Sarasota...and the visit home to see family in December. We got back to Sara Bay on January 2 and spent the rest of that week finishing up a few boat projects and visiting more with Bob. On Wayne's birthday, January 5, we went to St. Armand's Circle and had lunch at the Columbia restaurant, a long-time favorite. Here's the birthday boy enjoying the day out at their sidewalk cafe.

Interesting neighbor on the Sara Bay dock...the Chapel on the Bay, a floating chapel used for weddings, renewal of vows, funerals at get the picture. It was really weird to see this floating up to the fuel dock!

Talk about weird, how about this reindog we spotted on the streets of Sarasota before Christmas...

Sunday, January 9 - We waited on high tide to leave today since we need all the water we can get in this channel. Around 2PM we let loose the dock and headed across Sarasota Bay to Buttonwood Harbor, an anchorage near Longboat Key. We chose a spot just outside the channel in the harbor, a short dinghy ride from the Dock on the Bay where we paid a daily fee to land the dog. The area is peaceful. We were the only boat anchored there and very little traffic in and out.

This was another great location for a cruising boat to land. The bus stop was right in front of the Dock on the Bay and the beach was just across the street. We had some mail to collect from Sara Bay...and some other small business to care for before we took off down the coast... and this was a perfect spot from which to work.

It was a little breezy Monday night and into Tuesday, but we were comfortable with the way the anchor was holding. Until Tuesday night.

I woke up at midnight and Wayne was nowhere to be seen. I went up on the deck and there he was, huddled up on the fly bridge, watching the boat spin and turn in winds that were howling. He was going to sit up and make sure we didn't move. I entertained, for a minute, the idea of going back to bed...then got dressed and took my place up on the fly bridge with him. It was a night to remember. We ran through every possible "disaster plan" we could come up with...and sat up all the rest of the night, talking and watching.

We kept thinking the winds would die down a little with sunrise...but I'm not sure they did. I was concerned about Wayne being out on the bow trying to dislodge the anchor (heaven knows it was SET!), but that went smoothly. We gingerly picked our way out of the shallow channel and into Sarasota Bay. Fortunately, the winds died down enough that it was not an unpleasant ride from Sarasota Bay to Venice. We went into Marine Max for the night in Venice, right off the ICW. We ate lunch and went to sleep! A drowsy afternoon spent walking along the Venice waterway...then early to bed. A new resolution made: don't anchor out if the winds are going to be high. I think we underestimated how close we were to the Gulf in Buttonwood Harbor? The winds weren't supposed to be outrageously strong, according to the standard weather sources. The thing is...once it's dark and you're anchored, you just have to hang on for the ride!

Thursday, January 13 - Having recovered, somewhat, from our all-nighter, we went from Venice to Gasparilla Marina in Placida, Fl, on Charlotte Harbor. (Longest walk we've ever had from our slip to the marina office!)

Friday, January 14 - We decided to go into the Ft. Myers Yacht Basin for a night or two. Our generator had stopped on us that fateful night in Buttonwood Harbor and Wayne wanted to take some time and figure out what the problem was. In talking with our friends Ben and Sharon Birdwell we decided to go up to LaBelle where they keep their boat and let Ben, the mechanic, help out with the repairs. Ben and Sharon actually came down and helped us into our slip at Ft. Myers...then Wayne and Ben scoped out the generator problem. We finished off the night with dinner at Joe's Crab Shack and made plans to go up to Port LaBelle Marina the following day.

Saturday, January 15 - The trip from Ft. Myers to LaBelle was a beautiful one. I see why many boaters choose to cruise the rivers of Florida because from our limited experiences this year they are prime areas for lush vegetation, abundant and varied wildlife, and gorgeous views. Speaking of varied wildlife, this is one variety we hadn't expected on the Okeechobee...

Loved this sailboat all decked out in bright colors...

We spent the next week at Port LaBelle Marina, taking one of the TWO slips with power hook-ups. (There's a whole TV series worth of oddities here...lots of stories. So entertaining, was this week!)

LaBelle is a beautiful location, right on the Okeechobee Waterway. Here we are towards the end of this dock with Last Dragon.

Wayne and Ben fixed the generator in between side trips to Ft. Myers Beach, Clewiston (we saw Lake Okeechobee), Leigh High Acres...and, of course, LaBelle downtown and surrounds. I can see why Ben and Sharon like this place!

Friday, January 21 - With the generator fixed and all four of us ready to be "cruising" we all left LaBelle today for a night or two in Ft. Myers at Legacy Harbor. We had a little rain and fog going down, but it wasn't bad.

Saturday, January 22 - A really blustery day! We'd given thought to going to the Ft. Myers Beach mooring field for a night or two before heading down the coast a ways...but the wind predictions made us decide to stay close to the dock for another night. The wave action in the marina was so bad at times that we had a hard time being comfortable! Bonine to the rescue!

Sunday, January 23 - We moved on down to Ft. Myers Beach mooring field with Last Dragon. What an ordeal picking up a mooring ball! Half the balls in the field were missing their pendants so Ben actually had to use the dinghy to help us secure a line to the ball. Looks as though the mooring field isn't being cared for: missing mooring balls (or submerged) and few pendants still attached. We went ashore for lunch out at Nervous Nellie's. Good hamburgers!

Monday, January 24 - Off to an anchorage spot just down from Naples, FL, called Rookery Bay. It's on the Old ICW, so we were hoping for enough water to float Segue safely down. We ran up on some ground at one point because we'd strayed slightly out of the channel. Fortunately, we were able to get out of the problem with no signs of injury to the props.

Rookery Bay was well worth the trouble. Beautiful bay right next to a wildlife reserve area...and plenty of water to anchor in. The best part was the beach on Keewaydin Island, a short dinghy ride away... few people and lots of shells.

Ben and Sharon leading the way down to Rookery Bay...our depth finders!

Tuesday, January 25 - The winds were predicted to kick up again this week so we pulled up anchor and headed up to Naples City mooring field. We were anxious to see where/what/how of this field. As popular as mooring fields are to cruising boaters, this field never seems to be more than half full...and it only has about 10 mooring. Well, it didn't take us too long to see what the problem was. None of the mooring balls had pendants.

The winds had picked up, as predicted, just as we were ready to moor. Each boat had to go into the City Dock and get a pump out before going into the field. We finished first and headed out to tie up while Last Dragon registered and got pumped out.

We decided to try accessing the ball from the side of our boat, since the bow is so high. Wayne positioned himself on the port side and did actually get a hand on the ball for a few minutes. Trouble was, the wind was blowing against the boat and there was no amount of holding on that would have prevented us pulling away from the ball. When Last Dragon came onto the field they had the same problem. Ben finally got the dinghy out and secured their boat, then ours. Both boats ended up putting about 3 lines onto the ball to try and secure the boat against the winds.

Naples was a great place to be from our vantage. We were in the Old Naples section, being close to the City Dock, and within easy walk of shops and the beach. Most days were spent exploring the area by foot. The weather was sunny...and windy.

Saturday, January 29 - There is a four day limit to staying on the mooring field in Naples...and we were ready to move on when Saturday came. The waves were predicted to be 2 ft. and the winds were light. The ride up to Ft. Myers Beach was a little rocky-rolly because of the direction of the waves, but it was tolerable. We found our way to Snook Bight Marina on Estero Island and took our spot for the next month at the end of a T-dock with great views of Estero Bay.

We've been here for two weeks now and can honestly say this is the best place we could have chosen for the winter extended stay. The weather has been fantastic! Mostly 70's during the day and mostly mild nights.

Yesterday was a strange weather day with fog that was there in the morning and didn't lift until well up in the afternoon. We took the trolley to the head of the island and walked over the bridge to lunch at Doc Ford's. It was mild enough to enjoy eating outside...with views of the fog, even at 1PM.

We walked back over the bridge and had intended to walk about mid-way down the island before stopping for a trolley. The clouds finally congealed and started spurting rain, though, so we hustled to a trolley stop and only got slightly soaked before getting a ride.

Today has been the first really rainy day since we've been here...and it feels chilly (in the 60's). We've taken advantage of the rainy day by working on our computers and sipping hot tea. :-)

We have a couple more weeks here before beginning our trip back up the coast and home. Ben and Sharon have decided to take Last Dragon home this year, so we will have some company on the trip back. They will drive home this weekend and leave their car...flying back in late February to be ready around the first of March for the trip home.

Last Sunday Ben and Sharon drove down from LaBelle and picked us up to go with them to the Everglades City Seafood Festival. We'd never been to Everglades City before and thoroughly enjoyed the trip. What a crowd there was on that nice, warm day! The food was plentiful and good. All in all, a great trip.

I'd like to pick out a couple of possible rentals for this area for the years to come. We both really like the area here and can see coming down for a couple of months in the winter. There's a great art center here, the Ft. Myers Beach Art Assn. I attended an all day workshop last Friday and have since joined the association and participated in a couple of painting groups that meet regularly.

Next week we're renting a car and driving to Miami for a couple of days to check out the Miami Boat Show. We probably won't communicate by blog much until we start moving again in March. Ta ta for now...