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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Cabbage Key to St. Petersburg

Saturday, October 22, 2011

There were several bad days since the time we left Cabbage Key until now.  After waiting for the last front to pass, we were back to moving the Elixir once more. 

Tom was home, but only for 2 days.  He would have to return to California today to resume his training.  We asked three of our friends to complete our cruise.

The five of us began our day before first light and made our way back down to Bokelia to catch the Island Girl water taxi back to our boat.

We were making great time until we arrived to the town of Bokelia.  Road construction caused us to miss the first water taxi by five minutes!!!  Miss Island Girl keeps a very dependable schedule so we missed the boat!  She was kind enough to set up a private charter to take us back to Cabbage Key.  If Tom did not have to be back to catch a flight, we would have waited the two hours for the next shuttle, but we couldn't.





Finally, back to our boat!  We had just enough time to give the skippers a tour of our boat and order some of those famous cheeseburgers!


The Elixir was now in the hands of these great captains! From what I understand, they set sail around 11:30am and sailed all night.  They arrived at our slip in St. Pete at 11:30 am the next day! 

Great job guys!!!

While they were busy sailing the boat, Tom and I were busy making our way back to Orlando so he could catch his flight!  Back on the water taxi we went.  By the time I dropped Tom off and made it back home, it was 6:30pm!  What a day!

Marco Island to Cabbage Key

Wednesday, October, 12, 2011


While Tom has taken a new job with Virgin America, I am back on the water to move the Elixir to her new home in St. Petersburg.  Tom's dad offered to help bring the boat around with me.  Oh does he know what he is getting into?  ;-)


We arrived at the boat around 1pm, 1.5 hours behind schedule (it took a little longer to stage the vehicles and of course there was the morning rush hour traffic)!  After quickly loading the boat, and changing the 12Volt battery we began our journey.  Our friend Sam advised us to leave as soon as possible to avoid the low tide.  This area has some extremely shallow areas and we could definitely see that the tide was going out!


As we made our way back to the gulf, my mind flashed back to our voyage into this harbor in the wee hours of the morning not more than one month ago.  How different the harbor looked in the daylight!  The only thing that did not seem to be much different was the condition of the channel.  The winds and waves were still prevalent, but this time with only 1-2 foot waves.   I believe that this area never has calm seas!

Once out in the Gulf, we only had a few hours of day light left and so decided that we should only go as far as Naples.  I called ahead to the Naples City Marina and we made our way per the dock masters instructions, or so I thought!

The Naples channel provided some delightful views.  As we made our way through the curvy channel, we admired some aarchitecturally beautiful homes!

After almost one hour, we came upon our channel marker that would lead us to our slip.  Per the dock master, we were to look for the flag pole with one American flag and one white flag on the north side, then we could choose any slip numbered 59-62 located on the south side of the harbor.  


We docked the boat, got the grill ready then headed for the showers just as the sun set.   We arrived at the showers and that's when we discovered that we were definitely in the wrong place.  By now it was getting late and not knowing the waters and given the extra low tides due to the new moon, we decided to stay put.

 


How ironic that the "south side' vacant slip numbers, and the flag descriptions were EXACTLY the same!


So that is how we spent the night at the Naples Yacht Club! 


Here in the photo to the right you can see the moon behind a mast raised on land.








Thursday, October 13, 2011

We woke the next day only to find that the tide was extremely low,  as expected (high tide was at 1:00am)!.  Since we had to wait until 10am before we had any chance of leaving, Pop and I decided to stroll around and see what was near. 

We found a the marine store located at the marina where we should have spent our night!  We could clearly see the boat from the dock!

 
Finally, we were back on our way.  Next stop Fort Myers! 

We had a beautiful day on the water.  Once we were out in the gulf, the winds picked up and the waves a light chop.  Time to raise the sails and maybe gain some time!  We might have been able to do it had the main halyard not gotten wrapped around the steaming light.  It was too choppy for me to try and untangle the halyard so we motored to Ft. Myers.










The channel for Fort Myers is very long!  We entered the channel, called Salty Sam's marina for directions.






Boulders lined the channel on either side and quickly curved around to what appeared to be a dead end.  As we progressed towards the bridge the scenery changed from lovely homes to . . .




 
Bubba Gumps!!!!!!   After we passed through the Mantazas Bridge the scenery suddenly changed.  There were shrimp boats everywhere! 
 













We had to stay very close to the shrimp boats as this channel is very narrow and many shoals to our right! 





Once there we were pleasantly surprised!!  They had a tasty Caribbean Grill Restaurant, live music and a gift shop. 


After a delicious dinner, we went back to the boat for a night cap.  All was still, waters calm, when we heard a small splash.  on the other side of the dock we spotted a dolphin.  Before long, it had made it's way to the stern of the boat where it crested the water.  The dolphin, only two feet away from the boat, looked black in the inky water.

Shortly after, we were being chased down below by millions of mosquitoes.   It was a very hot night on the boat.  While we have A/C, the dock where we were assigned had the incorrect hook ups!    UGH!  We were roughing in tonight!



Friday, October 14, 2011

We had our first experience getting stuck in the muck!  Before leaving, we wanted to top off our fuel tank.   Moving ever so slowly towards the docks, we nervously watched as the depth gauge declined in feet.  Before we knew it we were stuck!  Fortunate for us, the dock hand was able to tow us back out to deeper waters.   Guess that is one way to clean those barnacles off of the bottom of the boat!

The current was strong and after several attempts to tie up at the end dock, we decided that we didn't need gas that bad!   We left Salty Sam's and as we headed back out to sea, made a random stop at a fueling dock which was obviously designed for shrimp boats.  I had to climb at least three feet up to the dock in order to tie us off, but it was worth it. . . cheapest gas ever!!!

Finally we were on our way!!!  Next stop, Cabbage Key!


The day was delightful and the seas very calm.  We cruised along the coast of Sanibel and Captivia Islands.  If you expand this photo you will be able to see the bridge between the two islands.

At one point, I thought that I saw land in front of us.  This, however, could not be, not according to the maps and GPS.  None the less, I had to check it out.  I grabbed the binoculars.  The waters were so calm that it gave the appearance of land.  How amazing!

And of course the day would not be complete without at least one dolphin sighting. 

As we approached the channel to Port Charlotte, we noticed several dead fish.  At first we thought that they were left over bait, but as we continued into the channel, the fish became more abundant.  It was red tide. 


The extremely short and narrow channel into Cabbage Key lead up to a quaint little harbor and again we were pleasantly surprised!  This is truly one of Florida's hidden treasures that I can not wait to revisit someday and explore the island!
This remote hideaway is old Florida, with mangroves instead of white sand beaches, and is reachable only by boat or helicopter.

This is the main house, now the Cabbage Key Inn and Restaurant.  The building sits atop an Indian shell mound and the view is extraordinary!  It was built in the 1930's by the family of playwright and novelist Mary Roberts Rinehart in 1938, but today is a restaurant crowded every day with people enjoying the famous cheeseburgers. It is said that Jimmy Buffet was inspired to write "Cheeseburger in Paradise" here. Their cheeseburgers were very good!

The grounds are surrounded by nature, in fact there are no TV's or phones in the eight cottages on the island.  There are lots of hiking trails to enjoy all of the nature found on this small island. 


Pop and I enjoyed a delicious dinner in one of the most uniquely decorated restaurant I have seen.  Over 70,000 autographed one dollar bills that cover every square inch of the walls and ceilings of the bar and dining room, including those signed by Kevin Costner, Julia Roberts, and supposedly John F. Kennedy. We were not able to find them though. 


This tradition was reportedly started by a local fisherman who taped up a dollar bill in the bar to be sure he'd have enough for a beer when he returned, and it continues today.


So of course, we had to keep up the tradition and add our own to the wall of many!


There was a fishing tournament here this weekend and so the restaurant and inn was hopping!
We noticed another boat docked beside us that was a sailing instruction boat.  I wandered over and spoke with the captain about our tangled halyard.  He said that the same thing just happened to them and that he would be happy to show me how to remedy that situation.  Sure enough, he did.  How wonderful!  We may be sailing tomorrow!


Saturday, October 15, 2011

We woke to a beautiful sunrise this morning!


We decided to take advantage of the early hour and move on.  The winds were pretty strong out of the north.  This would make leaving more than challenging.  The dock master had to hold our spring line while we backed out.  The idea was to swing the boat around enough so that when I went forward, it would clear the dock.    We did it!!!!  We were now on our way!

As we mad our way back out the channel in which we arrived, the waves progressively worsened.  I wondered, if it was this choppy and rough in the bay, what would it be like out in the gulf.  I decided to turn back and wait for better conditions.  We headed back to Cabbage Key.
At this point, I was running out of time.  I needed to be back home.  So now we had yet another issue to figure out.  How were we going to get back home?  We were out in the middle of, well, no where!

Our dear friend and neighbor came to our rescue, and on football Saturday at that!   Pop and I gathered up our belongings and hopped on the next water taxi off the island.

The Island Girl Charter runs from the mainland (Pineland) to North Captiva then to Cabbage Key.  Much to our surprise, this service frequented by locals who live on these islands.  This is their main transportation to stores.  There were many with bags of groceries (at least a week's worth), plants and shrubs, you name it!



The trip back to Pineland Marina in Bokelia took about an hour.  Along the way, we enjoyed the nature and other wonderful sites.
House boat near North Captiva Island

One lonely home on the very tip of an island.  Pelicans enjoy the sandbar just in front of this home.

Ah.  We made it to Pineland Marina in Bokelia.  Just waiting for our ride!  Thanks to Joe who drove all the way down here, we made it home!   We will have to make another attempt in the next few days!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Miami to St. Petersburg September 2011

August 27-30, 2011, Saturday - Wednesday



Dinner Key Marina, Miami - One last time!

 

Our adventure began with the rental of a Dodge Ram truck for our last trip down to Miami.  After packing it as full as we possibly could, we headed south.  Our first stop was our usual, good old Mickey D's off exit 101.


Ah, half way there, we hope to get there before dark so we can unload the truck. That did not happen since we didn't leave Tampa until 4pm.




We arrived to our boat in Dinner Key Marina around 9:30pm.   Even though Irene curved and missed our state, we couldn't help be wonder how our boat weathered this latest storm.  We are happy to say that Miami was spared and that there was no apparent damage to any boat in the marina. 




We did however find that the tides were extremely high which made getting on and off the boat a challenge at times.  At high tide, our boat was sitting up about 5 feet higher from the dock than normal.  I felt like I was mountain climbing each time I got on and off the boat!

These high tides lasted for the next four days.  The weather was sunny the first day, then rainy up until we decided to leave on Sept. 1.





During the next few days, Tom and a friend worked on getting the boat ready for our journey.  Our friend Geoff changed out our fuel filter.  What should have taken just an hour or two turned out to be a whole day's process.






We spent the other days getting supplies and testing out the operations of the boat and getting groceries and other necessities.

We kind of look like the Clampets don't you think?

Day 4 - The final preparations!

First thing this morning, we checked the weather.  Last night, we decided that it looked like there was still some bad weather predicted for today, so we decided to spend the day taking care of any last minute things for our trip.  Tom is testing our dinghy motor.  It appears to be working great!  As it turned out, the weather was beautiful today.  We will definitely leave tomorrow!  Originally Tom hoped that our course would take us through the Atlantic side of the Keys, but that would have to be for another time.  No snorkeling or hunting for lobster this time!



September 1, 2011, Thursday - Our adventure begins!

What a beautiful morning.  Seas are calm and the weather shows no rain in sight.  Time to fill the fuel tanks and leave our Miami home.  After fueling up, we left at 11:00am.

Good Bye Miami!

 



These two buildings with the green roofs are what we would use to navigate back to our channel when we were playing out in Biscayne Bay.

Oh, did I say we saw no rain in sight???  Well, this is Florida!   As Tom carefully watched the clouds build, I stayed our course. No sooner had we left when we turned tail back for Miami! Tom spotted a waterspout!  That was the first one that I have ever seen.  Pretty cool!  It wasn't long after that it started raining. 


 We were now heading back to Miami!  We waited for the weather to pass and then continued on our way.  We were now officially on our way to our next port - Gilbert's in Key Largo.


Our course takes us through Biscayne Bay and just off in the distance are these stilt homes that are built in the shallows of Biscayne National Park!  It is pretty amazing to be out on the ocean and see these homes out in the ocean!  The history of these homes is very interesting.  If you are interested in learning more about them, here is a link to that information:  http://www.key-biscayne.com/kb/stiltsville/index.shtml


Hello Gilbert's!   We're back! 


We passed through mangroves on the way to Gilbert's on Key Largo.  There is an abundance of wild life to be found in here along with mosquitoes.

The mosquitoes were very thick through here. Yuk!

We stayed at the same place when we actually brought the boat around to Miami from Marco Island back in October 2010.  As I recall, the mosquitoes were just as hungry then!
Just through this bridge is our first stop, Gilbert's.  We arrived here at 6pm.  The mosquitoes won the battle.  We decided to spend the night in a hotel room!


Somewhere along the way, we lost our prop to our dinghy motor.  Everything here was closed for the evening.  We will have to see about replacing it during our stay at our next stop.
  
Of course our trip would not be complete with out a re-visit to the tiki bar.  


September 2, 2011, Friday

Adios Gilbert's, until next time!

We are off to Isla Morada!

The weather was perfect!  Just a few puffy clouds scattered about.  The water looked so inviting! 



videoAs we made our way through Card Sound, we came across some very playful dolphins.  This video shows Card Sound Bridge as we passed through as well as some of the dolphins that we saw.

The Dolphins were playing in our wake.  At one point, one of the dolphins was swimming along side of the boat when it turned on its side and looked up at Tom!  I couldn't believe how many of them were around our boat!

We can see our next harbor in the distance.  Now all we have to do is navigate through all of the crab traps to get there.  There are so many, it is like a minefield! 

We dropped our anchor and settled in for the evening.  We wanted to dinghy in and go to the tiki bar/restaurant on the island.  While the water appears very calm in this photo, the current was actually rather strong and receding from the island.  Since we didn't have a prop for our dinghy motor, we felt it better to stay on board, cook our meal on our grill, sip some delicious wine and listen to the live music coming from Loralie's.
We had a couple of unexpected guests!  Two manatees circled around our boat.  We heard them as they surfaced to get air.  Tom spotted them as he was grilling burgers! 
During our sunset, we witnessed a strange thing!  While there were no boats entering or leaving the bay, we noticed a tiny wave that appeared to have originated from the land.  It was as wide as the eye could see.  It slowly came upon our boat and the proceeded to slowly go out to sea.  The only thing that we could guess it to be was the tide receding.  If anyone has ever seen or heard of such a thing, please let us know.  It truly was amazing to watch.


September 3, 2011, Saturday



The sunrise put on a show for us as well!  How beautiful it was.  After a quick breakfast, we pulled up our anchor and headed back out to the Inter coastal Waterway.  Onward to Marathon Key where hopefully we can pick up a prop for the dinghy.

We will stay at Boot Key Marina, which is located on the Atlantic side.  If the weather would have been better, our course would have taken us around the islands on the Atlantic side where we  were looking forward to some snorkeling,  Tom really wanted to have a go at lobstering. Maybe next time, the waters were not calm enough this trip.
We will have to pass through Seven Mile Bridge.  But first, more and more crab traps!!!!!!
Ah. . . I do believe that boating life agrees with me!

We are now through the Seven Mile bridge and on the Atlantic side.  This side is even more polluted with crab traps than Florida Bay!  We carefully navigate through them, so far, so good!
As we made our way to the Boot Key entrance, we made certain to stay inside the channel.  There were very shallow shoals immediately outside the channel. The dock master guided us to our mooring ball.  This was our very time hooking up to a mooring.   
This was our home for the night!  We took the dinghy to the marina and got our showers.  Later we walked around the town a bit to stretch our legs.  As we made our way back to our dinghy, we saw someone poking around the rocks near the marina.  So far, he caught one good-sized lobster! 

Tom made delicious grilled shrimp and pizza.  What a perfect night, the sky was very clear and the stars abundant.  Tom was lucky enough to see a shooting star streak across the sky!  It was so peaceful up on the bow; we hated to turn in for the evening.  We will have a long day tomorrow.


September 4, 2011, Sunday


 

Well, just as suspected, 5:30 came excessively early!  Here we are in our dinghy, rowing into the marina for our wake up showers!


Today we set off for the longest leg of our journey!   Depending on the weather, we will either stop at Little Shark River, or if the winds and weather are in our favor, we may just continue onto Marco River Marina at Marco Island.

Today the Atlantic water is very choppy and the wind strong.  In the distance is the Seven Mile Bridge that we must pass through again to get back into the Florida Bay.  It took us an hour to get from Boot Key Marina to the bridge.

videoThe crab traps were much more difficult to spot today.  They sometimes were covered up by the swell of the waves!  Again, we made it through them with out snagging any.



As we made our way into Florida bay, the wind decreased drastically.  It was now gently coming from directly behind us.  This will not allow us to sail.

Occasionally a yacht or fishing vessel would pass in the distance.  We were making about 4.7 - 5.0 knots.  At this pace, we would get to Marco around 8:30pm.

Around 11:00am, Tom asked me to take the wheel for a bit so that he could put a hook in the water.  He had been wanting to fish all week and now just before I took the wheel, old Mr. Murphy steps in!

Our engine started to overheat and then it just stopped.  So here were are, 3 miles off of the coast and 30 miles from Marathon when our engine just quits.  Tom quickly dropped anchor and proceeded to go below to check the engine.  He could find nothing wrong.  We decided to raised the main sail to see if we could harness some wind.  Again, no luck. 

Even our cell phones were out of range!    Eventually we sailed in an area that had a bit of cell phone coverage. 

We phoned our friend at Marco as well as Miami and told them our dilemma.  After about an hour, Tom decided to try and start the engine again.  She started right up and we were back on our way.  This delay set up back an hour.

We continued to motor along, careful not to run the engine too hard.  We kept it at around 1500 RPM's and made a consistent 4.9-5.2 knots per hour. 

At 2:30pm we were as far as Little Shark River.  We had not seen a single boat since noon!  Over towards land we could see the thunder clouds building.  If we headed over to Little Shark River, we would be heading into bad weather.  We had no choice at this point but to push on to Marco. 
That means we will not get there until around 2:30am!   The waves started to pick up a bit.  Since we were not making any more time with our main sail up, Tom lowered it and secured it.

The weather so far has been nice, not a dark cloud in the sky and the wave 1-2 feet.  Tom and I took turns at the wheel.  It was a beautiful sunset!


Even after the sun set, the moon offered up a bit of it's light.  We continued slowly along.  One mile seemed to take forever! 


Some time during the evening, the moon disappeared and the ocean became black and inky.  Tom and I were getting very tired.  The wind had increased and the swells were now about 4 feet. 

Tom and I took turns navigating.  As the night progressed we grew more tired, taking turns sleeping.  The wind continued to increase and the waves got bigger.  Just 25 more miles to go.  Another 5.5 hours left before we would be in Marco Marina! 

With just 10 long miles left, we could finally see the lights of Marco.  Off in the distance, we were looking for 3 white flashing beacons that would mark some very sandy, shallow shoals that we needed to avoid.  As we approached slowly closer, we could only see one of the three white markers.  We would have to rely on our GPS to get us safely through this area.  It's funny how miles back I was trying to spot these beacons.  The ocean played tricks with my eyes several times.  What I thought to be the white flashing lights, were in fact the moon reflecting off of the rising and falling waves.

Once we made it through this area, we were now in search of our channel marker that would lead us into Marco River Marina.  I can see it, Tom is resting for a short time, but I see it.  I am continuing towards it, but it doesn't appear to be getting closer.  It is almost like one of those crazy dreams where you are running towards something, but you never can get close enough to it.

Finally, I can see we are approaching the flashing red marker.  I wake Tom so that he can be my second set of eyes.  As I steer us closer, I start to feel some relief.  Relief that we will finally be at our destination and can finally shut our eyes.

In order to enter this channel from our approach, I must come around it and make a very sharp turn.  As I do this, the wind and the water slap our boat hard.  The boat becomes very intimidating to control at this point.  It feels like gail winds have developed!

I asked Tom to bring the boat in the rest of the way.  It then became my job to find our channel markers and keep us in the channel. 

Finally, at 3:30am, we found an empty dock to secure the boat.  Tired and exhausted from our 21 hour trip, we finally closed our eyes sometime after 4 am.

In the late morning, our friend phoned us and had us move our boat back to his place.  Funny, she is now docked at her origination. 

Her next stop, St. Petersburg Municipal Marina.