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Saturday, January 22, 2011

Everglade alligators

Gotcha! No, we did not see ANY alligators in the Everglades, despite our attempts to find them.

We cruised 57 miles from Marco Island anchorage to Little Shark River, in the Everglades. It was nice to have Charlie and Brandi, on Bama Belle, following us. We could not believe the number of crab pots. Crab pots are cages that are attached to a line with a round Styrofoam ball on top that floats to the surface. Usually we use the autohelm to steer, but with so many pots, we had to steer around the pots. At one point we snagged a pot and our cutters cut it loose. Snagging a crab pot can be a serious problem. The cord can wrap around the shaft of the propeller and stop motion. Since we were cruising in huge Florida Bay, we certainly didn't want to invite such a problem.

When we arrived at Little Shark River we entered slowly, watching our depth sounder. With a draft of 4 feet 2 inches, we have to be very careful. Shoaling forms as the river winds. We moved into the river a short distance and anchored. For the first night we tied alongside (tied together) with Bama Belle, but decided on the second day, after viewing the weather report, which predicted up to 30mph winds, we should anchor separately and find a spot that was protected. The storm blew through in a few hours. Crawdad had swung on the anchor and ultimately turned 360 degrees. This was due to wind and tide.

The sunrises and sunsets were amazing. As were the fog and reflection on the water.

We tried to find alligators after dark with our searchlight, looking for the reflective eyes, but the alligators were not to be found. The dolphins on the other hand where plentiful and fed along the shore in groups. It would have been fun to have stayed longer and ventured farther into the Everglades, but Boo and Jim voted to head to civilization and real grass.

Marco Island anchorage, mighty nice!

Naples to Marco is a 20 miles, which is a short day, but we wanted to anchor near Marco Island, now that the generator is working.

Following the charts and chartplotter carefully is really important as the waterway to our anchorage was marked with ATONs (marker) of different types. The ATONs in the GICW are set (when traveling south) with the green to the starboard and red to our port, but when you enter a river, the ATONs become green to the port and red to the starboard. Am I confusing you again? I am very careful to mark the chart ahead of time and also we carry red and green tape so that we can place the tape to our port or starboard side as appropriate. Placing the tape is helpful because as you travel and meet a marker, there isn't always time to think....let's see, should this be kept to port or starboard!

We followed into the harbor and there were two other boats. One looked as if it is a constant resident and the other left soon after we anchored. Later on another boat Bama Bell, from Mobile, AL came in. Charlie Crawford (yes Crawford), the captain of the other boat came over and said he was watching our blog. He had just left Mobile and was a "newbie". Now that we have traveled almost 3000 miles, we are happy to help any newbies! He and his girlfriend, Brandi, came on board and we laughed and became acquainted. They, too, were traveling next to the Everglades and then to Marathon.

We had a delightful dinner at the Snook Inn. Entertainment and a good crowd.

Good to know we will have company as we travel Florida Bay into the Everglades.

Naples....I finally understand the attraction!

After leaving Ft. Myers Yacht Basin, our plan was to check out Ft. Myers Beach, but the weather was so nice we decided to move on to Naples. Naples has a City Dock with mooring balls and we were looking forward to using our generator and dinghy once again.

Mooring balls can be a tricky business. In Naples the mooring balls have short pendants which must be picked up by a boat hook, then a line must be threaded through the end of the pendant. The line is then drawn through the hawse pipe and cleated once inside the boat. OK that sounds really confusing, but basically a line is hooked to the mooring ball and then to the boat. The short pendant makes it difficult and we wrestled to get the line appropriately tied. Once tied, we started the generator. NOT! WHAT! Jim was beside himself and once again found himself investigating in the engine room. We called our mechanic and he drove from Ft.Myers to Naples. Once again we moved to the dock so the mechanic could fix our generator. Finally he arrived and decided it was a simple fix and the generator ran while he left. Hurrah...again! We stayed on the dock for one day and then tried....again to enjoy the mooring ball. NOT NOT!! Once again, we were foiled by the generator. After a DIFFERENT mechanic came out, the generator was fixed.

The best part of our visit to Naples was our visit with my favorite Aunt Jean. She has a house in Naples - 13 miles from the City Marina. Jim and I looked at each other and said let's ride those bikes! We need the exercise! The ride took a bit longer than we expected and we started later than we would have liked also, we had to ride a bit on a busy road, but hallelujah, we arrived and we hugged my dear 89 year old Aunt. She is so cute and our visit was wonderful. We couldn't stay long and by the time we arrived back at the marina it was mighty dark!

We also enjoyed dinner with my friend Lynn Coppel. She is darling and so wonderful! She lives on Marco Island now and looked so great!

We love meeting people as we travel and our friends Pete and Ana from Blue Yonder had suggested we visit Bad Ass Coffee. We found the shop and sat down to relax. An older gentleman, Ray, was trying to work on his computer, unfortunately with great frustration. I tried to help him and we became friendly. We laughed and chatted and we were off on our bicycles, once again, investigating the beautiful city. Later on as we rode through the city streets, we heard a loud "hello!" and we looked and saw Ray from the coffee shop. He yelled - "lock your bikes on a tree and I'll show you the City!". We waved back - GREAT! He drove us past beautiful homes and brought us to where he is living in the "in law suite" of a huge home. You will see the picture here with a new home being built next door - for the son! Ray had been a NY City policeman, iron worker, assemblyman, worked for Interpol among other things. Isn't life interesting!

Generator bummmer! Ft. Myers Yacht Basin

Cayo Costa was such a pleasure we wanted to stay for a few days, but our generator would not start. Jim spent a lot of time in the "basement" trying to figure out the problem, but soon we knew it was time for a mechanic. We stayed in Cayo Costa one night and moved on to Ft. Myers Yacht Basin.

Before the Loop we were not aware there were 2 cities called Ft. Myers. Ft. Myers Beach, where there are only mooring balls and Ft. Myers the City which has docks and mooring balls. We decided the City Dock would be the best place for repairs.

We met a fellow boater who had experience and he thought he knew the problem. He was kind enough to enter the dungeon and look around, but we felt a mechanic was in order. After a whole day of repair and running for parts, the problem was fixed....we thought. Three days in Ft. Myers was enough for these gypsies!

Ft. Myers deserves more comment than complaints about our generator. The downtown is gorgeous! We arrived on a Friday to a Harleyfest. We have never seen as many Harleys and other bikes. The crowd was dressed in their Harley best and 3 bands entertained at the huge Festival. We enjoyed the restaurants and it is a great town for walking and running. Also the Marine Trading Post was worth a visit. Reminded me of Thomas Hardward for boat parts! Parts laying on the floor and lovingly disorganized!

Dragonfly the hybrid, former Erie Canal boat, was there as well. We enjoyed a meal with the Professor and his wife. They are enjoying a sabbatical experimenting with their boat.

The Edison-Ford Estate is near downtown as well. It is very interesting and we now understand why Ft. Myers is the City of Palms.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

No one told us how pretty an anchorage could be! Cayo Costa

Cayo Costa State Park is fabulous! Pelican Bay is located along the ICW and has a shallow entrance for a boat of our size, but once you enter!!!Wow!

The Bay is extremely quiet, but inside the Bay is the entrance to Cayo Costa State Park. We rented bikes and rode around the Island with BooBoo in his front carrier. He loved it (and so did I). (Jim wasn't as thrilled! haha)

A ferry carries passengers from the mainland, but the population is very low. We saw huge bird nests with parents tending their young. The beaches were gorgeous and Jim and I once again, added to our shell collection. Campers can choose to bring their own tents or use the small cabins provided.

We planned to stay for a few days, but our generator was not working, so we were unable to stay for more than one night. Our refrigerator and freezer are powered only by AC or the generator. Many of the newer boats have refrigerators and freezers using DC Power, so the need for the generator is not great. We do not have an inverter so we are reliant on the generator when anchoring.

Our friends have taught us how to anchor more safely and easily. We really enjoy anchoring, so we appreciate what they have taught us. Monkey Girl, Bill & Laura provided the grab hook we needed for the anchor harness. Pete, from Blue Yonder spliced each end of the line to put through each hawse pipe to the cleat. This moves the pull of the anchor from the windlass (that brings the chain up from the water or drops the anchor down to the water) to the anchor harness. (See pics) We also have an anchor buoy (or ball) that is tied to the anchor itself. This allows us to know where the anchor is lying on the bottom and also we could pull the anchor from behind if it were stuck. Confused yet?

We hope to do more anchoring. The price is right and we really enjoy the solitude. We use the dinghy to bring the boys to shore and Boo is working on using the pee pad. Maybe Buddy will use it later as well. We did see our friends Golden Retriever use their potty pad (artificial grass) and when he was done they "watered the lawn)!

We would not miss Christmas in Michigan!

With BooBoo and Buddy in tow, we loaded up the leased Impala for the ride to Michigan. We were unable to fly because of our 75 pound Labrador mix, Buddy. We scoured the boat for any item we could remove. If we hadn't used it or worn it, remove it!

One valuable lesson learned is what material goods it takes to live. We learned we need very little. All this STUFF we have at home, we really don't need it! We have met many couples who have sold the house and gotten rid of their STUFF and now live on the small space of a boat......sounds good!

We arrived home in Fenton just before Christmas and enjoyed time with our children, Jamie and Aisha (who are expecting in May and will visit in February), Joe and Erica (who are so kindly caring for Buddy for three months! and will be cruising with us in April) and Adrienne and Joe (who will visit for a week in late January in Marathon, FL). Great time! Too bad we didn't take any pictures! Guess we were taking a break from our photography as well!

Holland was so much fun! My 90 year old Mother and 92 year old Dad were so fun as were my brother, Dan & his wife Jan, their son Steve and Kelly (with darling Julia), and son Matt & lovely pregnant wife Allison. What a bunch. We played pick a number and pick a present. We are allowed to steal from another and you MAY land a good gift or not. No one cared! We were just glad to be together.

On our return we enjoyed the exchange of Buddy for our friend, Randy Anderson. He rode back to Florida with us and stayed for a week or so.

Shelling upon return to Florida was our focus as Betty, Jim's Mom and I were crafting, creating knicknacks. Doesn't everyone need more knickknacks to dust? We used the foam balls given to us by Anna, from Blue Yonder, cut them in half and with our trusty glue fun (portable for the boat, of course) and covered the half ball of styrofoam with shells! Instant priceless knickknack sent with love from Betty and Gloria!

Finally we readied the boat for our next phase of travel. We potted more basil and cleaned up the boat! Ready to go!