04/15/2013, Stoney Creek, Ontario
Apres Sail in her summer home
Well, here we are back in Stoney Creek after an amazing winter cruising around Florida.
We left Legacy Harbor Marina in Ft Myers on April 4th & traveled the 55+ miles to Burnt Store Marina in Punta Gorda. It was a spectacular day, 75F with brilliant sunshine & very little wind, a very fitting end to our winter 2013 cruising. We had done this trip back in the winter of 2010 but at that time were too nervous to enjoy the beautiful scenery as we traveled along the Gulf ICW, inside the barrier islands of Sanibel, Captiva, North Captiva & Cayo Costa.
We stayed in Burnt Store for three days, enjoying the hospitality of Platinum Pointe Yacht Club, a small club within the huge Burnt Store Marina, thanks to Doug & Lori Johnston, friends from Mimico. What a friendly place...........everyone who passed our boat on the dock stopped to introduce themselves. ( so many Ontario residents own property there)
But, alas, all good things come to an end so Saturday morning early we were off the dock, heading the 15 miles across Port Charlotte Harbor to a little canal which runs inland eight miles to All American Boat Storage, Apres Sail's home for the next six months. The canal is separated from the salt water of Port Charlotte Harbor & The Gulf of Mexico by a self operated lock. Going thur this little lock into the canal is a very unique experience as it is unmanned & we were required to open & close the lock ourselves. We managed to get thru safely but with only two people on board it is a bit of a challenge, getting the lock open, tying up the boat, closing the lock & then getting the forward one open. Then once you drive out you have to stop & push a big button to close it behind you. A very different locking experience but we managed to get thru with no boat rash.!
Once we arrived at the storage area we were immediately lifted out of the water & Apres Sail was on dry land again for the first time since August when we lifted out in York River on Chesapeake Bay, after our trip from Lake Ontario.
We got the boat "summerized" & then headed to Clermont to visit family for two days which was a nice transition from the cruising life back to the reality of sleeping in a real bed & driving a car instead of a boat.
After a two day drive we arrived back in Stoney Creek. Welcome to the Real World !! But, mingled with the sadness of leaving the boat was the happiness to be back in Canada with our family & friends & the anticipation of summer. It will be a different summer for us, being boatless for the first time since our first sailboat purchase in 1993. Fortunately we have many friends with boats so we will get our "water fix" visiting with them.
Ciao for now.!!
To be continued in November........
03/18/2013, Legacy harbour Marina, Fort Myers
Ok, so I need to do an update ( have been reminded several times :) :) ) so here goes!
We are in a great slip in Legacy Harbour Marina here in Ft Myers. We chose to come bow in so that we would have the sun in the morning & shade in the afternoon ( on the back deck) but unfortunatley so far sun ( heat) has been in short supply. It has been unseasonably cool for March ( except the days we traveled from Ft Lauderdale ) but we are enjoying the facilities here anyway. Our view from the back deck is beautiful, looking east on the Caloosahatchee River but we are protected from wakes by the breakwall so our spot is perfect.
We have great dock neighbors & met other marina residences at the weekly pot luck last Thursday. Most people are "winter residents" & have been here for a few months.
Our social calendar has kept us busy, amazing how many friends are in Florida for either short or long stays & it is wonderful to connect even for a short time. Tomorrow Dave & Annie are coming from Ft Lauderdale to visit their friends in Bonita Springs & they will all come here in the afternoon for cocktails & dinner. Joe's Crab Shack Restuarant, right on the dock here has been doing well off the Langley's & friends :)
We rented a car shortly after we arrived, drove to Port Charlotte & moved our own car down from the storage area so we have wheels for the first time this winter ( except for the ocasional rental) so we are exploring the area & doing a bit of shopping. We still do our daily walks to Publix & are trying hard to keep up the exercise routine that we developed in Marathon. it is more difficult here to be carless as not all services are within walking distance. We have, however, discovered a delightful little coffee restaurant who make their own donuts . Not Good !!!!!!!!!!!
Unfortunatley, we are in "wind down" mode & are starting to organize the boat for summer storage. It will be a different process for sure, but one that does require preparation just the same. Mould & Mildew are an ongoing issue here in the heat of summer so we purchased a dehumidifier & other assorted gadgets to use. Fortunatley our storage are is covered & we have electricity so that does make the process simplier.
So, for the rest of the month we are "dock bound" here & exploring by car. Around April 1st will start making our way north on the Gulf side to Port Charlotte Harbour to the storage area. Having started our journey there in 2009/2010 at least the area is familiar to us.
One quick interesting sideline, confirming what we mentioned last update about the world being very small........... As we were traveling on the ICW, just north of Ft Lauderdale on our way here last week, we had a call from David & Susan Wakefield, long time friends from Mimico Cruising Club. Anyway, Susan was on the deck of their rental unit, enjoying her ( early) morning coffee when she recognized our boat passing by. Amazing, really, with all the boats traveling on the ICW that she happened to be on the balcony just as we passed by. But, we have discovered that these types of experiences are very common in the boating community........... you never know when you will meet someone that you have crossed paths with either on land or the water.
So, thats all for now....... we are just so thankful to be here in Florida on the boat, missing the Ontario winter weather. Life is Good !!
03/02/2013, Ft Lauderdale Marina, Ft Lauderdale
Well our time in Marathon came to a sad end last Wednesday Feb 27th when we started making our way North again. Of course we had the anticipation of visiting the Bahamas to ease the pain of leaving The Keys.
We have been on the dock here since Thursday Feb 28th & at this point have scratched our Bahamas plan & will spend the next month over on the Gulf side of Florida, most likely in Legacy Harbour Marina in Ft Myers.
There is no weather window in the next two weeks that would be safe for us to make the 70 mile crossing to Grand Bahama Island. The wind is blowing strongly from the North & this is forecast to continue till at least March 16/17th. It does not make sense for us to make the trip mid March, pay our entry fee, stay two weeks & then hope for a weather window to come back .We would then have to make the three/four day trip to Port Charlotte on the Gulf side & get the boat ready for bed for the summer months & be back in Canada by April 20th when our medical expires. Too tight !!
Yes, we are disappointed, but it has beeen such a wonderful winter that we will leave the Bahamas as our "new experience " for next fall.
The trip north from Marathon was as spectacular as the trip south in January. The water color & the variety & abundance of sea creatures make it an unforgettable experience, one that we surely hope to repeat in 2014.
We met wonderful people & were welcomed so warmly by the "Marathon Elders", the folks who have been spending their winters there for many years.
We were fortunate to have great dock neighbors & we surely hope we will cross paths with them again. Godspeed to Rik & Nancy who are also in Ft Lauderdale hoping for a weather window to the Bahamas. I am sure you folks will have a sucessful crossing on Tuesday. Wonderful to have the horsepower to get you there safely in the short window. Please keep in touch & we will draw on your experiences when our turn comes.
We all know the boating world is very small & this was very emphatically demonstrated to us last Wednesday as we were traveling along north of Marathon. Captain Frank heard a boat calling another one & the name called was the same name as our sailboat we sold in 2001. It was a very unusual name "Gust of Wind", so Frank called the boat & lo & behold it was our old boat & the original buyers from Oakville. What a small world we live in. The owners Ian & Marlene are retired school professionals, have beern sailing Florida & The Bahamas for the last 5-6 years & are now on their way to Cuba.
I took photos & we exchanged e-mail addresses so it will be interesting to touch base with them now in their travels.
So, here we sit, snug & warm on the dock in Ft lauderdale, waiting for this brr weather to pass, enjoying the company of our friends Dave & Annie. Also, as a bonus we are enjoying the compay of Frank & Lisa McGee who are visiting with Dave & Annie before they head back to Niagara Falls.
Our plan is to head out North to Stuart on Wednesday & then turn West on the Okeechobee Waterway, cross Lake Okeechobee & on to Ft Myers. This will be the reverse of the trip we made in February 2010 when we started home to Lake Ontario. What an adventure it has been since then....................
Will post some photos when my laptop recovers.
02/06/2013, Sombrero Resort & Marina, Marathon
Guess it is update time again.
The past three weeks have gone by so quickly, it is hard to believe we only have another ten days here until we start moving North again. Well, not really North, just to Ft Lauderdale where we will leave the boat for a week or so while we return to Canada.
We have totally settled in to the lifestyle here.......... we get up pretty early
( well, some of us do :) ) and do our morning walk to the grocery store . The walk round trip is about 1.5 miles but if we have other errands to do ie Home Depot ( Frank has discovered they have a huge marine section ) then our walk is more like 2.5 miles. Backpacks are the order of the day & we have been known to pack six bottles of wine ( great sales ) along with the days groceries.
We are just getting into riding bicycles again & yesterday invested in gel seats. No explanations needed if !!!!!
I honestly thought I had plenty of padding but it doesn't seem to work that way.
We rented a car for a couple of days & that gave us an opportunity to explore the area but our best experience was taking the bus to Key West last week-end. For $3.00 round trip ( seniors price :) ) we were able to spend the day in Key West. We had visited last winter & saw the touristy things then so this time we just walked around & enjoyed the ambience of the town.
The bus ride is a great experience & no need to take a tour once you have done the bus trip as the return trip takes you right down to the walkway along the Atlantic Ocean & past the "southernmost point in the USA". All in all, very good value for a $3.00 bus ride. What a fun day !!
Yesterday Dave & Annie arrived from Ft Lauderdale, accompanied by was Dave's 91 year old Dad from Peterborough Ontario who had flown in the week before on his own from Toronto. Harry is an inspiration & we all enjoyed the beautiful sunset from the Sunset Bar & Grille last evening.
Today they have gone to Key West to show Harry the sights there but we will join them later at their hotel a short distance from our Marina.
We are really enjoying Marathon, have met some wonderful people, boaters & landlubbers. For car-less people our location is perfect as everything is within walking distance, including a couple of good local restuarants where I have sampled some wonderful Conch.
Our dingy engine has been giving us trouble so yesterday Frank purchased a new tank & a fresh supply of fuel. Todays test will be to see if it runs without stalling. We have not ventured too far with it, tough to row home & Tow Boat USA don't do dingy retrievals :)
Everyone we have met here has been so friendly & helpful, offering us rides anywhere we need to go & also loaning us their vehicles. Most people who spend the winter here bring a vehicle along & so that is food for thought for next winter.
Well, guess this is all the news for now.. life is very peaceful here.
Will post a photo taken at dinner last evening. The sunset was amazing.
01/16/2013, Sombrero Resort & Marina, Marathon Florida
Well, I think it is time I updated this blog. So much good stuff has happened since the last update in December that I don't know where to start.
So here we are in travel order:
Dec 4/12 flew home to Ontario for the holidays & to spend some time in the office so that Stephen could have some much deserved time off. The month at home went by in a blurr with all the holiday activities. It was great & I diddn't even mind the cold temps.
January 4/13, flew back to Melborne, Florida & had a busy couple of days provisioning the boat & getting ready to continue our southward journey.
January 6/13, off the dock & it felt wonderful to be underway again. We took our time, stopping in Vero Beach ( wonderful facility & now understand why so many cruisers like the place). Logerhead Marina was a great stop as we were on the "Canadian Dock" & met cruisers from all over Ontario & one couple on a lovely big trawler from Digby Nova Scotia. Also in Vero Beach we connected with Frank & Lisa McGee who are renting there for the winter. We had a fun afternoon & a great evening before they dropped us back at the boat.
Our next stop was North Palm Beach & now the look of the ICW had changed completely. We were out of the wide & peaceful Indian River & into the concrete ditch, with unbelievable homes lining the waterway for miles & miles. Of course just to add some excitment to the new territory we had 15+knots of wind & lots of boat traffic. And, to really add to the challenge we had 15 bridges that we needed an opening for, plus another four that we were not sure about until we got close enough to the bridge to read the water board telling us how much clearance we had. A couple were pretty tight but we made it under with no bumps or scrapes. So, it was a day of keeping to a schedule as the bridges have different opening schedules, apparently to accommodate travel of six MPH. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it diddn't.!!
Soon the waterway began to look familiar as we neared Ft Lauderdale. We have been blessed to have toured the waterway there with Dave & Annie in their little Florida boat so even though it was busy & windy we were pretty comfortable coming in to dock at Ft Lauderdale Marina, just a stones throw away from Port Everglades with its mega yachts & cruise ships.
We spent four days on the dock there, enjoying all the sights & sounds of our amazing location. On the Saturday afternoon Frank looked out & said the waterway looked just like the Western Gap in Toronto after the Air Show. Boats of all sizes coming & going, private boats, tour boats & of course the mega yachts that Ft Lauderdale is famous for. All in all it was a wonderful stay & such a unique expereince to be docked in the "Cruising Capital of North America".
But, our destination was still 150 miles away so Sunday morning early we were off the dock again on our way to the Florida Keys, our winter destination. Dave & Annie joined us for the three day voyage so we again were blessed to have their experience to help us along the way. We passed by five cruise ships in port that day, ensuring that we stayed far enough away so as not to upset the security boat hovering along side.
Traveling thru Miami was a very unique experience, again we passed by three cruise ships loading on passengers & of course being Sunday afternoon the traffic level was pretty high, boats of all sizes coming & going.
Soon we were thru the city, entered under the Rickenbacker Causeway Bridge & were in Biscayne Bay, separated from the Atlantic Ocean by Key Biscayne, a narrow spit of land approximately 15 miles long. It was very windy but fortunately Key Biscayne offeres great protection so it was a bit bumpy but very bearable.
Our stop for the night was a city marina in the town of Black Point. To get in we had to travel about 3 1/2 miles west on the bay, in a very shallow channel, where more than once our depth sounder registered minus water. I wish I could say that the marina was worth the trip but suffice to say it was a dock. The choices in this area were very limited, some so shallow that we were not able to access them.
We had to time our departure with mid tide the next morning so did not get off the dock until after 9:00am, a very late start for us.
The scenery as we passed by Key Largo was amazing, one could close your eyes & imagine that you were in the Caribbean. The water color was spectacular & of course the dolphins added to the days enjoyment.
That nights dockage redemmed my reputation. :) Plantation Key Yacht Harbor was all we expected & more & the highlight of the evening was the appearance of a mother Manatee & her baby who swam right around our dock for 30 minutes or so. For all of us it was our first " up close" encounter with a Manatee & we were all amazed at the size of these gentle creatures. The dock attendant turned on the water hose & both mother & baby brought their noses right out of the water to get a drink. What an end to a spectacular day.
Again, bright & early the next morning we were off the dock making our way on the last 45+ miles to Marathon. The water seemed to get shallower & the crab pots more abundant by the mile, so very often behind us was a "sand trail" as we dodged the pots while still trying to keep 1-2 feet under the keel.
Pretty soon the Seven Mile Bridge came into view, we found our channel, passed under & headed back on the Atlantic side into Marathon Harbor, bringing an end to the 3rd leg of our journey from Lake Ontario which started July 30th, 2012.
So, here we sit Sombrero Resort & Marina in Boot Key Harbor, Marathon, mid way between Key Largo & Key West. Hard to believe that just a little over a year ago we drove here, checked it our & said "lets come here for the winter".
Our actual travel days were 42, during which we covered over 2100 statute miles. We were very fortunate with weather, even though it was so cold in November we only had to delay travel on two occasions because of weather conditions. We were delayed in Cape May New Jersey in August for two days due to high winds & t-storms & one day in Morehead City, waiting for the low pressure which followed Hurricane Sandy to pass us by. The other days we stopped were "rest & enjoy " days where we decided to stop & enjoy the area we were passing thru.
We were truly blessed to have had family & friends along with us, the trip is such a unique experience it is a shame not to share it when possible.
Our plans are to stay here on the dock here in Marathon until approx Feb 15th when we will make our way back to Ft Lauderdale again, dock the boat & fly home to Stoney Creek for a week or so.
When we return we will be off to the Bahamas for 3-4 weeks to satisfy the requirements of our US Cruising Permit. All foreign flagged vessels traveling in the USA must physically take the boat out of US waters for a minimum of 15 days per year, otherwise your cruising permit will not be renewed.
So, another new experience awaits us but in the meantime we will enjoy the sunshine & all the experiences the Keys have to offer.
I still have not figured out how to post multiple photos but will give it a try again. Pictures do not do justice to the wonderful sights & experiences but they do give a glimpse of our experiences.
To be continued......................
A few photos
12/05/2012, Melbourne City Marina, Melbourne Florida
Well, we are back where our northern journey started in the winter/spring of 2010.
We arrived in Melbourne on Tuesday November 28th, 26 days from our departure from York River in the Chesapeake. Of course not all the days were travel days but a quick calculation says we travelled 960 miles in 20 days, equaling over 50 miles per day. And, the sunshine/warmth really did not appear consistently until we were well into Florida, below Jacksonville.
All in alll it was an amazing trip ( again), this time more relaxing than the trip north as at that time everything was so new, including the boat. We enjoyed every mile, even the cold days when the heating pad kept me warm. :) The amazing scenery, changing every day, the dolphins, pelicans, bald eagels, and the local fisherman who were out there trying to make a living no matter how bad the day was. Crab pots are a real challenge, especially when they are not restricted to outside of the channel so that the travel requires constant vigilance to avoid having them wrapped around the prop.
The journey is not about staying "between the markers" but constantly being aware of the conditions ie , being able to clear a 26' bridge because it is low tide, timing the bridges as many only open on the hour/half hour & milling about in a narrow channel with half a dozen other boats is not a fun exercise.
Many areas require transit at mid to high tide to avoid "bumping the bottom". While this is not necessarily a dangerous thing it would require sitting on the sandy bottom until enough tide comes in to lift the boat off & get you moving again. We saw this on quite a few occassions, especailly with deep keel sailboats who not only had the depth to worry abour but because of the exceptionally high tides present during our travels , many of the bridges were just barely passable for them, & in many instances we saw them anchored waiting for the tide to go out before they could pass under the bridge.
So, yes the journey had it's challenges, one being the cold weather that seemed to hang on forever, but the sheer beauty of the terrain we pased thru the experiences we had & the wonderful people we met along the way helped to create a "life experience" quite unlike any other experience I can ever imagine.
So, for now the boat is well secured in Melbourne Harbour under the watchful eye of our good friends Bill & Darlene & we are at home in Stoney Creek, getting a taste of "cold weather".
Our journey will continue in January when we head to Marathon, in the Florida Keys & then to the Bahamas for a few weeks to satisfy the requirements of traveling on a Cruising Permit in the USA.
In the meantime we have a business to attend to, Christmas to enjoy with our family & friends & grandchildren to hug.