Naples to 'Tween Waters...or not!
28 April 2017 | Garden at Palm Cottage, Naples, FL
Wednesday, April 26
The day started with promise of a smooth transit of the Gulf to San Carlos Pass of approximately 25 nm nm thence into Pine Island Sound for about 13 nm nm and a planned three day stay at 'Tween Waters, a beautiful and somewhat timeless resort on Captiva Island which offered convenient access to an excellent restaurant, a great swimming pool and the beach....and of particular interest to the Gulls- excellent shelling opportunities. The crew had moored there several times in the past and was eagerly looking forward to returning...but it was not to be. Having delayed for a day in Naples for a more favorable sea state for the Gulf transit portion of the leg to 'Tween Waters, we were rewarded with relatively smooth seas but little wind to fill our sails so we were dependent on the "iron ginny" (Gerry's term for the diesel auxiliary engine).
After passing under the Sanibel Island Bridge between Punta Rassa and Point Ybel and making a turn to the west at ICW Mile Marker Zero (interestingly the start of what is termed the Gulf Intercoastal Waterway and the western terminus of the Okeechobee Waterway) into Pine Island Sound, we proceeded normally until we were in sight of channel marker "14" (only a little over 4 nm in the Sound) at which time the engine died. Thinking that it was possible, although not likely, that the starboard fuel tank was empty, we switched tanks and attempted to re-start the engine. It came alive briefly...but only briefly. Given the uncertainty of our situation at that point in time, we chose to deploy our anchor in about 12' of water and call Seatow. Being a member of Seatow, we requested that we be towed to the most convenient marina to investigate the problem and possibly get a mechanic to work on the engine. Our Seatow operator, Rick, arrived at our anchored vessel within about 30 minutes and worked with us to identify a marina within his area that would accept us and allow us to stay on board. That initiated a series of cell phone calls to nearby marinas to locate one with the following attributes- nearby, have a mechanic on site or who worked as a licensed vendor in the marina, and allow us to live aboard while the necessary repairs were underway. This process resulted in quite an education on our part; i.e., many (actually most) marinas will not allow boats to be towed into their marinas; some marinas will not allow live aboards while repairs are underway; some marinas have absolutely no provision for staying on your boat under any circumstances. We explored marinas on Pine Island, Ft Myers Beach, Burnt Store Marina on the west coast of Charlotte Harbor, Cape Coral and finally Ft Myers. Seatow is a franchise operation with defined areas of operation for each franchise, thus towing across the zones requires coordination between the franchises and a "handoff" of towing responsibilities. That ultimately constrained our choices. All this took time, thus we became concerned that we would not be able to reach our destination by dark. After a considerable number of calls...and thank goodness for cell phones and good cell phone service in the area.... Ft Myers Yacht Basin on the Caloosahatchee River agreed to accept us if we would moor on the outer pier. Interestingly, the Basin was only slightly east of Legacy Harbour where we moored for several days in advance of our stay in Naples. Considering the distance, about 20 statute miles (approximately 17 nm), and the time (about 3 pm) at the start of the tow, we estimated we would not reach the Basin before their 6 pm closing time but they agreed to leave us info about the restrooms, licensed vendors, wifi, etc. As it turned out, we were towed at about 7 knots and even accounting for reduced speed in a manatee zone were able to reach the Basin shortly after 6 pm. It took two tries to maneuver the boat into the pier but the sea and wind conditions smiled on us allowing us to moor securely with the pier to starboard. In short order, we connected to shore power, turned on the AC, spliced the main brace and took stock of our situation. Gerry's blog that follows continues the saga of this incident. (RKS)