Bob Washer's sister, Walt's Aunt Marie and her son, Jimmy, came to Chuck and Teresa's condo to visit with us this morning. It was so nice to spend time with relatives that live so far from us. It probably would have been easier to make the trip in the car, but heck...anybody can do that! We came down from New York in our sailboat! It's been a new experience sailing the west coast of Florida and the Gulf of Mexico. Praise God for his continual guidance and protection.
We are visiting Chuck and Terry, friends from Katlynn Marine on Sodus Bay, our home port up north in New York. We tried to exit Tampa Bay via Egmont Channel this morning around 10:30 but the breakers were way too large and the seas were confused so we turned back and did the ICW and the 5 bridges to Madeira Beach. Chuck and Terry met us at the Welch Causeway Bridge on their motor boat and led us to their condo and a nice quiet dock right out front. They treated us to a great dinner and then dancing at the Elk Club that they belong to here at the beach. What wonderful friends from C-D Dock at Sodus! Thanks so much!
Today we pulled anchor at 6:30 and headed out of Charlotte Bay through the Boca Grande Pass and into the Gulf of Mexico. We were hoping to outrun the bad weather coming from the northwest.....We had 68 miles to cover before pulling into Regatta Pointe Marina in Palmetto. We motor-sailed most of the way and to save time we headed into Longboat Pass which was very narrow and shallow. Immediately we had to go through the Longboat bridge, turn north and go through the Cortez and Anna Maria Bridges which then put us into Tampa Bay. Now the winds were blowing 20 knots so we called ahead for help docking the boat. Five men were waiting for us at our slip which was good because the dock was only 15' long and our 42' sailboat had a hard time tying off her lines! Poor Ranger has to be carried off the boat because the dock is so short...but the marina is lovely and the washers and dryers are close. There is a pool, hot tub, two restaurants, a work out room and boaters' lounge. Nice!
Ranger went into Cape Coral today via dinghy and he really seemed to enjoy the 30 minute ride to Larry and Kitty's. The canals resemble streets with the corresponding signs for each waterway so you don't get lost. This very low bridge on the canal system limits the size of your boat on the other side but before the bridge we saw enormous cruisers of every description.
We arrived in Cape Coral today around 3:00 and as we pulled into the Okeechobee River Larry and Kitty Stange met us in a power boat to lead us into the anchorage. We met Larry and Kitty in Marathon several years ago when they were living on their 36' Catalina, Saildreamer. There was lots of boat traffic but plenty of room to anchor in the basin across from the Westin Hotel. Larry took us and Bonnie and Sid to his beautiful new home on one of the near-bye canals where we shared stories and pizzas. On the way back to our boats I spotted a motor boat with my name on it----that must be my Florida house that my boat is docked in front of!!!!!
We had an early 7:00 start today to motor-sail the 60 miles from Little Shark River to Marco Island on the Gulf of Mexico. The water here is the same green color that we find near Miami, we have lost the turquoise-blue of the Florida Keys. We pulled into the tricky entrance of Marco Island with very shallow water in the middle and a hurricane-destroyed island to starboard. We followed the markers and came into a beautiful channel surrounded by high end condos, townhouses and marinas. There were 4 of us sailboats anchored in a line and a trawler out in front. It was another peaceful night, but tonight the condo lights twinkled around us!
We left Boot Key Harbor with FIU this morning and headed to Florida Bay under the Seven-Mile Bridge. It was a calm semi-cloudy day so we motor-sailed for the 7 hours it took us to arrive in the Little Shark anchorage which we shared with 3 trawlers and 3 other sailboats. It was so nice to be tucked away from the hustle and bustle of Marathon and to relax in the quiet of the backwater. Dolphins arrived to greet us as we were having our strawberry shortcake in the cockpit.
We had a marathon driving frenzy this week-end starting with the Miami Boat Show on Saturday. Thanks to Roy and Yasmine two carloads of us cruisers got to attend the boat show for free! That's a cruisers' delight....thanks, Roy and Yasmine! We drove up with Bonnie and Sid and checked out the new Catalinas, saw Bob Bitchin himself and bought subscriptions to his new magazine, Cruising Outposts. In the afternoon we took a 30 minute bus shuttle to the Convention Center to see the dinghy displays and the electronics. Now this Miami show is mammoth, huge, and crowded but who did we see just in front of the West Marine display from our home port, Katlynn Marine? Don and Suzi Grosz! No foolin...we were all thrilled and gave hugs all around. Then back to Boot Key with a stop for dinner at the Loreli. Sunday, after church, we drove to JAX airport to pick up a rental car and then stayed in Elkton, northern Florida. Monday we checked our Toyota into Green Cove Springs Marina where our boat will be pulled next month for the season and we headed back to Marathon with our rental car. Whew! Oh, did I mention it was Bonnie's birthday on Monday? Yes we all celebrated on Waves of Grace!
We've ridden our bikes many times to Pigeon Key but this is the first time we took the official tour. Walt and I, Bonnie and Sid, and Kent and Jane all signed up at the visitor's train for the boat ride under Seven Mile Bridge and then a tour of the Key. There were 4 barracks with 64 men in each all working on Flagler's Railroad. Each barrack had only one out house and no showers......The men were paid $1.50 each day in gold! Originall Pigeon Key was only coral with no trees, but it's now looking very nice with grass, trees, and flowering bushes. It was worth going on the tour!
We had a fabulous Mardi Gras bash a board Yasmine Ann for 11 people. Yasmine made a scrumptious spicy jambalaya, Bonnie brought a King's Cake and we had bananas foster for dessert. We provided the tequilas! Bonnie, ever the Spanish teacher, brought a pinata filled with goodies....laissez les bons temps rouler!
Laurie, Lars, Anna and Ryan surprised us with a phone call that they were arriving in two days to escape the snow and gray skies of Cape Cod and just in time! I picked them up on Thursday in Ft. Lauderdale just before the storm hit the northeast. Anna loves the sailboat and everything about the water. They spent two nights on
board with us and then three nights at the Holiday Inn Express in Marathon. We went snorkeling at Sombrero Reef on Friday, spent the day at the beach on Saturday, went to the Sunset Grill for lunch on Sunday and the 7 Mile Bridge. It's been a whirlwind visit which we've all enjoyed-family-what a blessing from the Lord!
Yasmine prepared a feast of new delicacies to enjoy on her catamaran while Roy was off in Orlando working like crazy. After the shrimp, sweet and sour meatballs, black-eyed pea salad and dessert, we had a great time doing pedicures, manicures and facials. Yasmine could open up a salon on her boat any time with her array of nail polish and face creams!
Each year the first year Med students from the University of Miami have a free health clinic here at Fisherman's Hospital. Whatever you need tested...glucose, cholesterol, skin cancer, bone density, etc everything is free of charge. It's a great community service and there is always a waiting line to get in.
We are so used to beautiful sunsets here in Boot Key Harbor that I forget to share them via the blog. If there are clouds near-by then the sunsets are even better. I snapped this photo from the back of the boat just before finishing up our dinner preparations in the galley. Many times I see the sunsets as I'm taking Ranger back to the boat from his walk around the athletic complex and I don't have my camera.
Walt and I have been avid sailors for 38 years. Our retirement dream was to sail to Florida and the Bahamas for the winter months which we did for the first time last year, 2007-2008. We decided that we loved the cruising life
and four days after our return to Lake Ontario we traded our Catalina 320, Eagle's Wings, in for a Catalina 42 which we named Waves of Grace. We hope to continue to cruise in the Florida Keys, Gulf of Mexico, and the Bahamas for many years to come