05/22/2011, Seafood Shack Marina next to Cortez Bridge
The Seafood Shack Marina
Our night anchored in Little Sarasota Bay was one of the more pleasant of this trip. The anchorage is just off the ICW but as predicted by the guide book, the traffic died down in the evening leaving the sea around us broken only by gentle ripples. The bay became as quiet as if we were at a remote island anchorage. Following another of Ann's tasty meals, bar-b-cue chicken this time, and after a rousing session of Mexican Train, we settled in for a great night's sleep. A gentle breeze kept us cool all night long. Around 11pm, the moon came up lighting up the bay. The whole evening and night could have been an advertisement for the cruising life.
We left the anchorage around 8:30am and motored to the Seafood Shack Marina located next to the Cortez Bridge in Bradenton arriving there at noon. Jascat will be spending the next week here while we tour Sarasota and the Ringling Estate and Museum, and go to DisneyWorld. When we get back, the girls will have flown back to Texas and their summer jobs, and we will be preparing to cruise over to Pensacola.
After much consideration, Ann and I have decided to leave Jascat in Pensacola for the summer and early fall. We originally planned to be back in southern Texas by the first of June before the summer heat in Louisiana and Texas really started to ramp up. This vacation with the girls, as much fun as it has been, has kept us here in Florida an extra three weeks making it nearly July before we could get back. Neither of us can stand the thought of motoring for days on end along the hot, muggy ICW in Louisiana and Texas in mid June.
So, why Pensacola? It has a great cruising ground we've not explored, and it's just a day and a half from San Antonio. Should be fun.
05/21/2011, At anchor just south of White Beach in Little Sarasota Bay
Two of the dolphins that joined us off Manasota Key
First off: if you are reading this, you are in deep trouble. Sarah tells me that today was the start of the end of times and those of us still here tomorrow are in for considerable misery over the next few years. Personally, we haven't noticed any changes as yet. Perhaps the west coast of Florida is already close enough to heaven that we'll get an exemption.
But back to the sailing report. We left Pelican Bay at about 8am and went out Boca Grande Pass into the ocean. It seems we always encounter a Tarpon tournament in this Pass and today was no exception. There must have been 100 fishing boats milling about in the Pass all concentrating on the water and not watching out for catamarans passing them by. We managed to avoid them all, however, and set off north for the Venice Inlet twenty three nautical miles away.
The wind was very light, less than 7 kt all morning, and directly off our stern. These were very challenging conditions even for a light weight boat like the Gemini but after having to motor the previous day, we were determined to sail to Venice. We set the sails in a configuration oft used by trade wind sailors, but new to us. This is a double headsail configuration with the jib on one side and the cruising spinnaker on the other. This worked reasonably well allowing us to average about 3 kts for the morning. In the afternoon, the wind clocked around to the west and increased to about 10 kts. Switching to the main and cruising spinnaker, the average speed jumped up to the mid 5's.
We had a notable dolphin encounter in the afternoon. As we passed by Manasota Key, perhaps a dozen dolphins appeared off our port side. Several of the dolphins found us interesting enough to swim over for a closer look. Sarah and Brittany ran to the bow and got to see several swim through our bow wave. Brittany says she could have touched them if she dared.
We passed through the Venice Inlet at 3:30 after enjoying a truly great day's sail. From there we motored up the ICW for another two hours to reach our anchorage in Little Sarasota Bay.
05/20/2011, At anchor in Pelican Bay
Sarah, Brittany, and John enjoying the good life at South Sea Island Resort
The South Sea Island Resort is the best marina stop of this entire trip. It has the best showers/restrooms, laundry (which we didn't actually use), and the most convenient docks of any marina we've stayed at. Plus it has all the amenities of a 5 star resort: great beach, super pool and water slide, superb dining and shopping, and manatees swimming in the harbor. The crew didn't want to leave but the schedule couldn't be ignored.
We left South Seas at about noon and motored the short distance to Pelican Bay at the north end of Cayo Costa anchoring at about 3pm. The winds were just as light as forecast never getting above 5 knots until we were within 30 minutes of Pelican Bay.
There is a park and nearly deserted beach on Cayo Costa but the girls were beached out, so we skipped the hot, muggy walk over there and swam off the back of the boat instead. After showers and little rest, Ann prepared another of her stupendous suppers. The entree was one of our favorites, bar-b-cued pork loin a la Roberson. A fleet of boats came in to anchor as the evening went on providing entertainment for several hours.
05/18/2011, K dock in South Sea Island Marina
Jascat sitting in the lap of luxury, South Sea Island Resort
Today's trip to the South Seas Resort at the south end of Captiva Island was the first extended period of motoring Jascat has had to endure since we first entered the Abacos back in late February. We departed our mooring buoy in the Matanzas Pass mooring field at 7:35am in a near calm which carried through the entire day. Fortunately, Captiva Island is only 20 some odd nm from Ft Myers so we only had to listen to the noise for about four hours. There may be more motoring ahead. The forecast is for winds of 10 kt or less through the weekend. We'll be staying here at the South Seas Resort until Friday noon when we'll set out for the short hop to Pelican Bay.
05/17/2011, Mooring ball #12 in the Matanzas Pass Mooring Field
Dinner companion at the Matanzas Inn
Our stay in Ft Myers Beach is coming to an end. The girls, Sarah and Brittany, have joined us, and after a fun filled day touring the many tourist shops in Ft Myers Beach, we're packing up to head out to Captiva Island and the South Sea Island Resort.
Except for the aborted attempt to repair our air conditioner, more on that later, we have had a great time in Ft Myers Beach. Besides being about the least expensive place on the west coast of Florida to hang out for a week, the Matanzas Pass mooring field, administered by the Matanzas Inn, is a great place to stay. The Inn rates a 10 on all the primary cruiser rating criteria: convenient dinghy dock, clean rest rooms with excellent hot showers, first class laundry, grocery store within dinghy range, cheap local trolley service, free pump-out boat, and lots of dining options. The West Marine is a little far off, but it is reachable by trolley.
Now about that air conditioner. We haven't really needed air conditioning yet, but looking forward to summer, when we'll be somewhere along the upper Gulf Coast, we'll need it. So when we were in the Riviera Beach Municipal Marina we decided to try it out. And sure enough, it would not come on. The next day, an a/c mechanic determined that a black box called the time delay needed replacing. Well no problem, the air conditioner factory was only 40 miles up the road in Stuart. We drove up there that afternoon.
The very helpful factory technician told us that they had been having lots of trouble with that time delay and now they are using one from a different vendor. And oh yes, the new time delay is wired a little differently but here's a diagram showing you how to do it.
Well, "a little differently", doesn't begin to describe the changes and the diagram was so brief as to be nearly useless. After a fruitless afternoon trying to get it to work, we had to give up as we had to leave for Miami the next day.
Our next opportunity for working on the a/c was here in Ft Myers Beach. This time, we decided to go back to the professionals. We discovered, however, that this is peak season for marine a/c mechanics and none were available. So we opened up the a/c box again, this time with Ann leading. She has an electronics background due to her day's with the phone company.
This time we spent two days working on it and two trips to the Moss Marine docks so we could hook up to shore power to see if it would start. It wouldn't. The last attempt produced sparks and smoke so we have officially given up. The a/c will have to get fixed when Jascat gets settled into its summer home.
05/17/2011, Mooring field in Ft Myers Beach (Matanzas Pass)
Florida resident enjoying the beach on Sanibel Island
This was written back on May 14:
Ever now and then while out cruising, you'll run into an old salt who refuses to use some convenience that modern cruisers take for granted. We met just such a character in the Abacos who never used mooring balls because, he said, you never know when one was going to fail. You should always anchor instead.
Well, I don't know about some of the other advice you get from old salts (never rely on a GPS, for example) but not trusting mooring balls has some merit. For the second time on this trip, we witnessed a mooring ball become detached from the sea bottom. The first time, documented in the March 29 blog entry, was back in Man-O-War harbor when we watched a power catamaran literally rip the mooring out of the ground. The second occurred today when the big monohull next to us in the Matanzas mooring field pulled his buoy out and was saved from running up on a shoal only by the swift action of its captain.
We were just about to settle down for supper when a little storm decided to blow by. We had anticipated this all day as the weather forecast had a weak cold front passing by in the late afternoon. We were actually looking forward to its passage as the front promised to drop the day time highs from the 90's back into the 80's.
The frontal passage started as a light rain which had us chasing around closing the hatches. Just as we completed that task, the wind, which had been in the 15 kt range, began to ramp up. Jascat, and the boats around us, began to swing from side to side violently pulling on the mooring balls, first on the left side and then on the right. The motion of the boat just beside and behind us was especially harsh. It was a heavy monohull weighing maybe three times as much as Jascat.
The owners of the monohull were not aboard at this point. They were visiting on another boat about 50 yards away. As the monohull began to really thrash around, the captain jumped into his dinghy and started to motor over to his gyrating boat. I remember thinking that he was being overly cautious. After all, in a storm, most modern cruisers would probably chose being on a mooring rather than at anchor. Bad choice says the old salt.
As the captain got about half way back to his boat, the monohull gave a mighty lurch and started to drift downwind with the mooring ball in tow. My guess is that by this time the winds were in the high 30's or low 40's.
The captain was apparently having trouble controlling his dinghy in the high winds because it took him several minutes to tie up to the back of his boat and climb aboard. The boat meanwhile was being blown bow first toward a shoal that lies to the east of the mooring field. Just as it appeared that the boat was certainly on the shoal, the captain got the engine started and began to back up. He powered back into the mooring field and proceeded to motor around for about 30 minutes until the wind and heavy rain abated.
So moral to this story: you can chuckle to yourself all you want when an eccentric old salt gives you some advice, but later on you should give whatever he said some serious consideration.