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Jascat to the Bahamas
The Spring Cruise is Over
06/09/2014, Sitting on the blocks in Charlotte Harbor Boat Storage

Ann exaggerating her strength

Jascat's spring cruise for 2014 is over. The good old boat is safely stored away for the summer at Charlotte Harbor Boat Storage and we are awaiting a Friday airplane flight back to Texas. Stand by for the fall cruise coming to you around the third week in September.

Ding Darling to Pelican Bay to Tippecanoe Bay
06/07/2014, Anchored off Cattle Dock Point

Jascat sailing close hauled from an earlier sail

Tomorrow we'll be motoring into Charlotte Beach where Jascat will go into storage for the summer at Charlotte Harbor Boat Storage. The 50 nm trip up here from the Ding Darling anchorage was mostly motoring as expected. We did get enough wind to sail late in the afternoon yesterday but we had already anchored in Pelican Bay when it came up. Today, we managed to sail for about two hours as we rounded Cape Haze going from Pelican Bay up Charlotte Harbor to Tippecanoe Bay. We'll be enjoying one last night at anchor here in Tippecanoe Bay before going into the boat storage yard tomorrow morning. There, we will tie up at the dock for the night. Our haul out isn't till the next morning but we need an afternoon at the dock to get ready.

Indian River to Marco Island to Fort Myers Beach to Ding Darling
06/05/2014, Anchored just off the Ding Darling Park on Sanibel Island

Osprey ready for take off

After the disastrous anchorage at Cape Sable our subsequent anchorages have been superb. Indian River four days ago was remote, calm, quiet, and scenic, just what you're looking for touring the Everglades. Then Smokehouse Bay in Marco Island the next night, although a little hard to get to, was well worth the 30 minutes of winding around the interior of Marco Island getting there. This beautiful little bay right in the middle of an exclusive housing area has ready dinghy access to a Winn Dixie Supermarket and many other shops and restaurants via the Esplanade and Winn Dixie docks. That evening, we enjoyed a super gourmet meal at CJ's restaurant at the Esplanade. We got back to our roots the next morning with breakfast at MacDonald's. Later in the morning we sailed on to Fort Myers Beach and took up a mooring ball at the Matanzas Inn. This is always one of our favorite stops because the Matanzas Inn provides a great laundry and showers along with a convenient dinghy dock for going into Fort Myers Beach. Pete's Dockside on the second floor of the Matanzas Inn serves great pizza also. And now finally on the fourth day, we are anchored just off Ding Darling Park on Sanibel Island. Although this stop is only a mile or two from Fort Myers and is just off the main channel leading to Pine Island Sound, it is little used and feels like a remote back country anchorage.

Up until today we were able to sail to most of these destinations (except for motoring up the Big Marco River to Marco Island, of course). The winds were light but just adequate for really pleasant sailing. Today, however, going from Fort Myers Beach to Ding Darling, there was barely enough wind to fill the sails and we had to motor. That may be the case from here to our final destination, Port Charlotte. The weather forecast has the winds less than 7 mph for the next week.

Long Key to Cape Sable to Indian River
06/02/2014, Anchored near marker #7 in the Indian River

Indian River Osprey surveying his domain

The sail from Long Key to the Indian River was one of the best of this trip. That is, it would have been if we hadn't stopped at Cape Sable. We left Long Key early yesterday with two options in mind: option 1, sail all the way to the Little Shark River about 45 nm away if the wind was favorable, or, option 2, stop for the night at Cape Sable which is about half way to the Little Shark. We hadn't stopped at Cape Sable before, but one of the guide books spoke highly of an anchorage next to a shoal called the Middle Ground just east of the Cape. It said the spot was well protected by the shoals and had good access to a great beach.

The morning winds turned out to be just perfect for a fast, comfortable sail all the way to the Little Shark River. The winds were in the 7 to 13 kt range just aft of the beam and the seas were only lightly choppy. I can't remember when Jascat was moving so efficiently and smoothly through the water. However, as we approached Cape Sable just after noon, the conditions also appeared to be good for a pleasant afternoon swimming off the boat and exploring the beach. We often berate ourselves for not stopping to smell the roses, so we decided we deserved an afternoon of play. After a little discussion, we ran on over to the Middle Ground shoal and dropped the anchor.

Settling down to lunch around 1pm, we noticed that the lightly choppy seas of the morning seemed to be a building into small waves. And worse still, the Middle Ground shoal didn't appear to attenuate the waves in the least. At that point, we should have pulled up the anchor and headed back on course for the Little Shark. The weather forecast had the winds dying down as the day went on, however, so we decided to wait. Later in the afternoon, long after the opportunity to continue to the Little Shark had passed, the winds increased to a high of 18 kts and pretty much stayed there. The so called protected anchorage was swept with two to three foot waves. We rocked and rolled all afternoon and through most of the night. It was far too rough to consider taking the dinghy to the beach or do anything but lying in our bunk.

Setting out at dawn the next morning (today), the sailing conditions started out just as good as the previous day. As we rounded Cape Sable, we were making such good time that we decided to bypass the Little Shark River and go on to the Indian River. After yesterday's experience we weren't about to let good sailing conditions get away from us. At midmorning we were averaging about 5 kts in light winds which would have us arriving at the River in the late afternoon. Starting around noon, however, the winds picked up into the high teen's as we began to encounter rain showers. That upped our speed into the 6 to 8 kt range which allowed us to reach the Indian River a little after 3pm with the anchor going down at 3:55pm.

The early arrival left us with plenty of time for an afternoon swim but unfortunately we could't get in the water. The Indian River is part of the Everglades National Park and there are supposedly alligators in these waters. Unlike the Keys where the water is clear, the Indian River water is nearly opaque and we wouldn't want a splashing foot to be mistaken for a fish.

Dinner Key to Little Card Sound to Long Key
05/31/2014, Anchored off Long Key just south of Fiesta Key

Great White Heron in the ICW channel at Cross Key

The first two days of our trip around the southern end of Florida have gone very well. The first day out, Friday, we sailed from Dinner Key to Little Card Sound (about 35 nm) where we anchored on the southeast shore. The winds were light as forecast, typically less than 10 kt, but we still managed to sail most of the way.

We normally use our cruising spinnaker for conditions like this but of course it got wiped out a few days ago, so before leaving Dinner Key, we swapped out our jib for a 150% genoa which we also carry. This sail is not as pleasant to use as either the jib or the spinnaker because it blocks forward vision on the side of the boat it is flying on. The weather forecast for the next week continues to predict light winds, so I guess we will get used to it.

The anchorage at Little Card Sound, although not recommended in the guide book, turned out to be quiet, calm, private and thoroughly delightful. The anchor set so deeply in the soft mud that only the very tip of the handle could be seen.

That set is the complete opposite of tonight's set here off Long Key. The chart indicates that the bottom is "hard" in this area and that's exactly what we found. The tip of the anchor is dug in with lots of sand and weed piled on it, but most of the anchor is well out of the ground. Nevertheless, the set did hold a minimum power setting and the winds are forecast to be light, so we plan to sleep well. We'll see. I like my anchors well dug in.

Today's sail from Little Card Sound to Long Key was one of the best of this trip. It was all along the ICW that runs the length of the Keys on the mainland (or bay) side of the islands. It wasn't all pure sailing because there are several dredged cuts that have to be navigated under power. We probably put the sails up and down a half dozen times or more today but enjoyed every minute of it.

We will be leaving the Keys tomorrow to start the trip up the west coast of Florida. We'll probably be out of cell range for at least the next three days and maybe four or five. We are considering taking a side trip or two but aren't going to decide till we get there.

Goodby to an old pal
05/29/2014, Tied to dock at Dinner Key Marina

Elliott and John pulling in the remains of our beloved cruising spinnaker (photo by Carol)

One really unfortunate thing happened during our cruise with Carol and Elliott, we blew out the cruising spinnaker for the second time. This time we blasting along Biscayne Bay in 12 to 14 knots winds right on the beam when the fabric at the top of the sail let go. This led to other tears running down the sides of the sail. At the time, we figured that this was "the big one" for this sail. After all, this sail is nearly 20 years old. It looked completely shredded as Elliott and I pulled it in. Ann's assessment today, however, is that she may be able to repair it after all. Hope so.

Tomorrow we are heading out to make our way down the Keys to the Channel 5 Bridge and then on up to the Port Charlotte area on the west coast of Florida. Should take us about two weeks to get there.

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