February 26, 2015

February 25, 2015  Day 96 South for Winter
At anchor in the Everglades
Little Shark River, FL

Joining other boats at anchor in the beautiful
Little Shark River
We left the Rod and Gun Club at 8:45 under a sunny sky and retraced our route down the Barron River into the Gulf.  We could see a ridge of clouds and as soon as we entered the Gulf, we were in fog, and the fog lasted for three hours. We have radar and were fine, but it is still more intense, especially watching out for crab pots. At least the water was calm and we had a good cruise.  The sun came out at 12:30 and we were in awe of the water. We could see nothing but calm water and it was a beautiful color with the sun reflecting on it.

We arrived at the Little Shark River at 2:50 and anchored for the night. By the end of the afternoon ten boats were anchored here.  We were all lined up in a row because the river is narrow, but fortunately long enough to accommodate several boats. We were treated to herons, two dolphins and surprisingly a huge turtle that surfaced near the bow of our boat. It had to be three feet wide.

We also enjoyed our dinner of pork tenderloin which we had cooking in the crock pot all day.

Tomorrow we will depart at dawn and travel over 80 miles in the Gulf to Key West.  There is a front moving in and we are concerned about waves building up. We will travel at a higher speed than normal to make this an eight hour day. We look forward to spending a few days and maybe a week in Key West. This is our first trip there and we know there are many things to see and experience. 

February 24, 2015  Day 95 South for Winter
Rod and Gun Club
Everglades City, FL

We had fog alerts this morning but departed our anchorage at Marco Island at 7:30. We experienced light fog but mainly just an overcast sky and did not need the radar.  By 11:00 the sun came out! We were happy to have calm water the entire trip as we were about 20 miles off shore part of the time.
Love the dolphins!
We entered the Everglades about 1:00 and were treated to a dolphin that swam and jumped next to our boat for several minutes.

We arrived at the Rod and Gun Club which has a face dock at 1:30 and tied up for the night.  We went inside the lobby and marveled at the beautiful wood and furnishings. Many presidents and famous people have stayed here in earlier years. 

Going through the Everglades on an airboat
Fascinating scenery!
Passing another airboat
We went back to the boat and confirmed our reservation for an airboat ride. The company even sent a driver to pick us up.  At 3:15 we boarded the airboat and donned our headphones to protect from some of the loud noise these boats make.  For the next hour we were treated to a mostly fast ride with quick turns through very shallow canals lined with mangroves. The Everglades are fascinating! Our driver stopped for a while and answered our questions about wildlife, size of the area, etc. We were surprised to learn the Everglades covers 4900 square miles. We are so glad we took this ride!

After our driver took us back to our boat, we got ready for dinner at the Rod and Gun Club.  We had a fun evening and ended up talking to four ladies at the table next to us. They were traveling as part of a “Roads Scholar” bicycling group, which we found fascinating. Two hours later we returned to our boat!

We will depart the Rod and Gun Club in the morning and travel offshore to the Little Shark River where we will anchor.

February 23, 2015

February 23, 2015  Day 94 South for Winter
At Anchor, Smokehouse Bay
Marco Island, FL

After five days, we departed the Fort Myers Yacht Basin Marina (after stopping to fill our fuel tanks for $2.85/gal) on Saturday. We cruised for exactly two hours and anchored in the lovely setting of Glover Bight, off Cape Coral.  The Tarpon Point Marina, the Westin, and condos formed a border along one side of the cove. Several small boats came and went during the day but we anchored with just two other sailboats for a peaceful, calm evening.

On Sunday, we left the anchorage and worked our way back to the channel on the river that led to the Gulf. We were happy to have a calm six hour day cruising south on the Gulf, most of it 3-4 miles off shore.

We arrived at Marco Island and chose an anchorage in the protected Smokehouse Bay, near the Esplanade Marina.  It is a beautiful anchorage! We cooked a steak dinner on the grill and had a relaxing evening watching Downton Abbey and the Oscars.

On Monday morning, we took the dinghy to Winn Dixie and took advantage of their dinghy dock. Even though we provisioned on Saturday, we managed to fill a few bags of food to bring back to the boat!

We will depart early on Tuesday morning and go to Everglades City. We will stay at the Rod & Gun Club Marina and plan to take an airboat ride in the afternoon! 


February 20, 2015

February 20, 2015  Day 91 South for Winter
Fort Myers Yacht Basin Marina
Fort Myers, FL

Thursday is Farmers’ Market Day in Ft. Myers and Joyce took advantage of the opportunity, and also enjoyed the walk. She came back with strawberries, broccoli, snap peas, lettuce, squash, and two pastries.   We are starting to get things ready for our Saturday departure, and are getting all the laundry done, chart plotting, etc.

We spent this morning (Friday) making phone calls to get reservations at a marina in Key West!  We will arrive on Friday, February 27, which is Bill’s birthday.

Sarah and Brooks picked us up after lunch and we all went to the Craft Fair in nearby Centennial Park.  From there we went to Publix and finished all the provisioning. We appreciate having Sarah and Brooks take us. We had planned to get a taxi on the way back but they insisted on waiting for us.

We had a quick dinner and then had fun on Face Time with our granddaughter, Abby who is celebrating her first birthday today!

February 18, 2015

February 18, 2015  Day 89 South for Winter
Fort Myers Yacht Basin Marina
Fort Myers, FL

As planned, we left our anchorage at Cayo Costa and cruised to Ft. Myers on Monday. We had lots of boat traffic, perhaps because of Presidents’ Day.  We arrived at our slip early afternoon, glad to be here, knowing the weather conditions (mainly wind and waves) were going to deteriorate within the next few days. 

Joyce began the next day with a haircut. So nice to be back in Ft. Myers and return to the same salon! Our Looper friends Sarah and Brooks who have relocated to Cape Coral, came over by boat to join us for lunch. The original plan was to return to Cape Coral on their boat, but the wind was getting strong, so we just walked to a nearby restaurant. We had a fun time and while Bill and Brooks walked back to our boat, Sarah and Joyce ducked into a few shops.

On Wednesday, Joyce walked to the Post Office which is a pleasant half mile walk along the water.  Other activities included laundry, baking bread (Joyce), and doing a pump out (Bill). We continue to think through our itinerary and schedule for the coming days. We want to start heading south to the Keys, but need the Gulf to calm down since we won’t have the protection of the GIWW.  Given all that, we have decided to stay here until Saturday.  

February 15, 2015

February 15, 2015  Day 86 South for Winter
At anchor
Cayo Costa, Pelican Bay FL

We had another change of plans and stayed at Burnt Store Marina three nights. We got some cleaning done on the boat, took a walk around the surrounding neighborhood which is a gated community, and had a nice dinner at Cass Cay, the restaurant on site. Most of the vehicles in the parking are golf carts.  
We also had more repairs done on some of the canvas and those panels were delivered on Thursday morning.  We left later that morning and cruised a short twelve miles to Cayo Costa, one of our favorite anchorages.  

There are many boaters here!  Cayo Costa is on Pelican Bay and is a State Park that has camping facilities, nature trails, and quick access to the beach on the west side.  A simple $2.00 fee gains everyone access to this very pleasant site and includes shuttle service to the beach.

After Bill changed the engine oil this morning, we took the dinghy over and walked along the beach for an hour.  Bill took pictures of shorebirds, and Joyce collected shells.  It was warm (74 degrees) but breezy, but we are so happy to be this far south and feel badly for our friends and relatives who are cold up north.

Tomorrow we will return to Ft. Myers for a few days.  There is a weather front with high winds arriving mid-week and we want to be secure in a marina.


February 11, 2015

February 11, 2015  Day 82 South for Winter
Burnt Store Marina
Punta Gorda, FL

We are having way too much fun! We usually manage to update the blog on a more timely basis, but somehow it has eluded us. Here is a summary of our activities since January 27 when we last wrote.

We did leave Ft. Myers on Jan 28 and anchored out the next two nights, at Cape Haze and at Otter Key – both were lovely anchorages. We arrived in St. Petersburg on Jan. 30 and were greeted by Gay and Mike, Looper friends who are spending the winter in a condo in FL. They rode their bikes over to see us and we had a fun visit. On Saturday we walked to our favorite Farmers Market and came back with meat, vegetables and fruit. We had just returned when we heard from Brooks and Sarah who had driven up to St. Petersburg for the weekend, so they came over for a visit! We love these surprises!
Any bets on who gets the fish on the end of the line??
Joyce’s sister, Kathy and brother-in-law, Paul arrived on Sunday for a week long visit. It was such a joy to have them with us.  We had planned to depart on Monday but we stayed an extra day due to weather. We enjoyed going for walks, having the best gelato, and going to an outdoor art show.

We departed St. Petersburg Tuesday and cruised to The Moorings at Longboat Key for three days. This is in an upscale resort and we felt spoiled. The resort shuttle took us to the beach upon our arrival and we had a relaxing afternoon walking along the beach and then sitting pool side. We had dinner at Whiskey Tavern, one of the restaurants at the resort.  On Wednesday we took the shuttle to St. Armands Circle, an upscale shopping mecca. We browsed through many shops and had lunch at Columbia, a local favorite Cuban restaurant since the early 1900’s.  We had dinner on board that evening.  We went back to St. Armands Circle Thursday to meet Paul’s cousin, John and his wife Pam who drove up from Venice to join us for lunch at the Crab and Fin. 

Joyce and her sister, Kathy on the beach at
Longboat Key
Due to weather issues, we cancelled our plans to go to Clearwater Beach on Friday and returned to St. Petersburg a day early. We had a bumpy ride all the way with four foot waves, but since they were on the bow, it was not so bad.  We discovered more Loopers had arrived! Scott and KC on Jet Stream were there by boat and Freya and Don (Last Resort) were there by car. More great reunions!!

We walked back to the Farmers Market on Saturday morning with Kathy and Paul and came back with more goodies.  We grilled steaks that night and had a nice dinner on board.  Sunday arrived all too soon and Kathy and Paul had to return to Atlanta that afternoon.  Bill did manage to work in a dinghy ride for Paul and they toured the harbor at St. Petersburg. We had such a good time having them with us. We played a board game, “A Ticket To Ride” countless times during their stay and became quite competitive!

We departed St. Petersburg and cruised seven hours to Venice, five of which were in the rain.  We were glad to get docked at the Crow’s Nest just after the rain stopped!  We spent two nights there. Friends, Ron and Lisa with whom we did the Down East Loop, joined us for dinner at the Crow’s Nest and then came back to Carried Away for dessert (we bought a delicious Key Lime Pie at the restaurant). We spent the evening reminiscing about our wonderful journey together. Many thanks to Lisa for taking Joyce to a few stores that afternoon to do some necessary provisioning!

We are now at Burnt Store Marina (south of Punta Gorda) for two nights. We had such a good cruise today and were thrilled to have one dolphin in particular swim along side of us for several minutes. Tomorrow will be a maintenance day – oil change, laundry, cleaning, etc.