On Up the West Coast of Florida
24 February 2013
We left Marathon on Thursday, February 14th (Valentine's Day), and had a wonderful motorsail under the Seven Mile Bridge, up the Red Bank Bay, through Bullard Bank and on to the Little Shark River. The winds were 10-12 knots, but not in a good place for us to just sail. Seas were about 2 feet, a light to moderate chop in the Florida Bay, and we found ourselves very relaxed, enjoying the bright sunshine and warm breezes. Just as we were about to enter the Little Shark River, however, the winds started howling at 25 knots or more and the seas kicked up as well.. We were planning to drop the hook just inside the entrance in a little bay but it was much too exposed so we went upriver, just past red mark '4" and around the bend where we found protection and enough room to anchor. The wind and rain squalls kept up all night, but we were held snug by our new Rocna - this was the very first time we had deployed it and it lived up to its reputation.
The next morning, the winds had died and the seas were more settled but it was raining. Nevertheless, we set out early for Marco Island as it was a long trip - 50+ nautical miles, and we had to make a wide detour around Cape Romano to avoid the shallows there. We arrived at Marco Island about 3:30 PM and anchored in Factory Bay. By this time, the rain had stopped and we could take a deep breath and let our shoulders down. The only glitch was that our tacktick wind instrument had stopped working altogether. While we still have the Davis masthead unit to give us wind direction, we do not know how strong the winds are - we'll just have to make our best guesses.
On Saturday, February 16th, we went into a slip at The Marina at Factory Bay, our first dock in about a month and a half. It felt very good to be there, as the winds picked up strongly within a couple of hours of our arrival at the dock, and the temperatures dropped as well - it was below 40 for the next two nights, and we even turned the heater on in the mornings.
About 15 minutes after we tied up, Bill & Susan Hurt on Osprey pulled into a slip on the next dock. They are friends of Jeff & Terry Zukerman and we had been looking out for them (and they for us as well). It turns out they were also friends of Al & Mon Cameron's - they had met each other in the Bahamas a few years ago. What a small world the cruising community is!! We spent the next 3 days at the dock, and hanging out with the Hurts and the Camerons. Mona and Al hosted us for pizza and dessert at their condo one evening, Pat made chili another night which we hosted on Chanticleer, and we all went to a gulfside restaurant another night where we could watch the sunset as we guzzled sundowners.
On Tuesday, February 19h, Al & Mona took us to the northernmost part of the Everglades National Park, where we climbed an observation tower and had a great view of the Ten Thousand Islands. We then went to Everglades City, where we stopped by the famous old (circa 1864) Rod & Gun Club. Pat & Mona also saw about a dozen big gators on the ride back.
The next day, February 20th, we left Marco Island after Al & Mona took us to the Farmers Market, and made the short ride up to Naples (about 10 nautical miles), where we picked up a mooring at the City Dock. Very early the next morning (about 3:45 AM) we got a call that our daughter-in-law Kathleen had given birth to our 9th grandchild, a boy named Desmond - 7lbs, 5ozs, 20 " long. All are healthy and happy, just a bit tired. We will be here in Naples for a couple of more days then move on to Fort Myers Beach where we will make plans to leave Chanticleer at a dock for 10 days or so, rent a car and drive home to visit our new baby boy and his delightful parents.