Arriving in Marathon FL

Our first sight of the 7-mile bridge. We're about to leave the Gulf of Mexico and venture into the Atlantic Ocean for the first time.

Our first sight of the 7-mile bridge. We’re about to leave the Gulf of Mexico and venture into the Atlantic Ocean for the first time.

We're in the Atlantic Ocean, looking back at the 7-mile bridge.

We’re in the Atlantic Ocean, looking back at the 7-mile bridge.

Following the channel into Boot Key harbor, we pass through a defunct railroad bridge.

Following the channel into Boot Key harbor, we pass through a defunct railroad bridge.

There's a huge mooring field in Boot Key harbor but we continued past and docked almost at the end of the channel at Sombrero Resort & Marina.

There’s a huge mooring field in Boot Key harbor but we continued past and docked almost at the end of the channel at Sombrero Resort & Marina.

Off the grid and out to sea

I'm still hauling in the anchor as I pause to wave goodbye to Tom & Genny as we leave Goodland.

I’m still hauling in the anchor as I pause to wave goodbye to Tom & Genny as we leave Goodland.

Rich & I pulled anchor and headed south from Goodland with trepidation. Goodbye Intracoastal waterway – hello open waters of the Gulf of Mexico. We parted ways with Tom & Genny – they headed back north.

The winds were higher than our preference but they came from the east and only produced a small chop. The ride to the inlet of Everglades City was quite pleasant.

Rich took a rare break from piloting to read a book - probably just a page.

Rich took a rare break from piloting to read a book – probably just a page.

The anchorage at Little Shark River.

The anchorage at Little Shark River.

The anchorage, however, was decidedly NOT. We tucked behind an island, off the channel, but the tides and currents and winds were wierd. The boat never settled into a bow-on posture and we kept getting rocked sideways by swells and waves. Fishing boats roared past late at night, then again at 4 AM sending us rocking. That was bad enough, but I made it worse.
I tied a laundry soap bottle on a floating nylon rope to the anchor. The thought was to mark the anchor location and give me something else to haul on in the morning. Lately getting the anchor up has been a 30 to 45 minute process. But with the wierd currents (and too long of a rope) the bottle spent the night banging on the side of the boat. Neither of us got any sleep.

We were up before dawn, hoping to get an early start, but a thick fog rolled in, so we sat. By 9:30 AM we were heading out again into the Gulf for our longest run yet. We expected a nice run with lower winds but it was a miserable 5 hours of being pummeled from behind and sideways by swells. It appears that, within reason, wind direction is more important than wind speed … and we learn more each day.

As if they knew we we’re miserable, the creatures welcomed us to Little Shark River. First we saw a tarpon jump – a massive flash of silver. Then the welcome wagon arrived – a fleet of at least a dozen dolphins – jumping and twisting in front of our bow and along both sides of the boat. It was an awesome display. They stayed with us into the small bay at the mouth of the Little Shark River. Here, in calm water, we’re anchored with two other boats and surrounded by gorgeous vegetation and flocks of birds. And, no wi-fi access yesterday or today -that’s the reason for the multi-day post as one.

Our final off the grid morning started bright & clear – no fog. The 3 other boats in the bay weighed anchor early & we were right on their tails. For 5 hours we had a wild ride – it felt like running a slalom course (dodging the plentiful crab traps) while astride a bucking bronco. Not one of the 4 of us was happy. Once in the lee of the Keys, the seas calmed to a chop and we had a much nicer time sliding into Marathon.

Goodland on Black Friday

No early morning shopping spree for us. Instead, we hauled anchor (which took a long time – it was buried deep in mud from the high winds and tide shifts) and headed south a short ways to Goodland.image

Choices is anchored not far from the marina.

Choices is anchored not far from the marina.

Again Tom & Genny docked at the marina and we anchored close by. We took a long walk – a tour of Goodland and ate lunch in a seaside restaurant. Unlike affluent Marco, Goodland is older, poorer and much more quaint. But, the restaurants are still expensive.

Thanks to Tom for supplying me with photos these past days. Tomorrow we part company – we continue south & they head back north. We’ll miss their company.

But tonight we enjoyed a parting dinner together & ate up all the Thanksgiving dinner leftovers -yum. Safe travels Tom & Genny.

FiaFia in the background as we dinghy away.

FiaFia in the background as we dinghy away.

Aborted Takeoff

The plan: Head south around noon/1PM today to use the rising tide on the skinny channel to Marco Island. Tom & Genny took off at the agreed upon time but we didn’t quite make it.

Reality:  We had both the dock master & the captain of a big boat next to us helping with lines & advice. The captain said our bow thruster pushed good on the first blast but then lost power. There was no way we could make it against the wind. He lent us a tool to test our batteries under load.  We need 2 new 8d batteries He was very complimentary of how Rich handled the boat under bad conditions.
So, we’re tied up again, in the same spot in the same marina. Tom & Genny continued south. The big boat captain connected us with some guys he got a good deal from for batteries for his boat. Tomorrow morning they will be here to install 2 new 8d batteries and take away the old ones – thank goodness – hauling the last 8d around nearly broke Rich and me – they’re very heavy. We hope they’ll be quick and we can catch the tail end of tomorrow’s predicted lull in the winds and go catch up with FiaFia. Our banner day yesterday lasted all of one day!

Besides windy, it’s cool, so we spent the afternoon cleaning our stainless steel.

On to Ft Myers Beach

We were leisurely getting ready to leave this morning when Kitty reminded us of the tides – oh yeah, we forgot. A quick check showed we were on a falling tide. It was either leave then or stay another day. We hustled, said our good byes and heaps of thanks, and headed down the channel. We cleared the low point in the channel with a foot of water to spare and headed down the Caloosahatchee River on a mild current. We passed under the Sanibel Island Bridge

Approaching the Sanibel Island Bridge.

Approaching the Sanibel Island Bridge.

and continued south on the glass-still Gulf of Mexico.
Inside Matanzas Pass we picked up a mooring ball for the first time. Practice will improve the sequence but we did well.

Our first mooring ball at Ft Myers Beach.

Our first mooring ball at Ft Myers Beach.

We dinghyied ashore to register then began strolling Ft Myers Beach – not impressed at all. It’s a tacky vacation locale. But we found a taco stand, then a cool and quiet cafe where we got iced coffees and a muffin and cooled down.
For tomorrow we have booked a 4 hour walking tour of the shrimping industry – we’ll both enjoy that.
Oh, no more sewage yet. We know there’s a problem but hopefully we can limp along to Marathon where we can find a boat plumbing expert.

Birds line the railings under Sanibel Island Bridge.

Birds line the railings under Sanibel Island Bridge.

Rockin & Rollin in Ft Myers

We had a short trip this morning from the anchorage to the Ft Myers Yacht Basin with the wind at our back and the swift current in our favor. Rich did an excellent job bringing us in to the dock. We were being swung around so he backed off and approached the dock from the opposite direction. Once tied securely he joked “I meant to do that – it put us bow to the wind”. It was totally by accident but worked in our favor. As the afternoon progressed the winds got stronger and Choices bounced in the surges, thankfully behind a break wall.
Really though, Rich did an excellent job handling the boat in tough conditions and I had set lines all around the boat so the last minute changed posed no problem.
We did our first hike to the grocery store and hauled back a cooler and backpack of food. And for the first time since we left we ate lunch and dinner at restaurants.
Pat and Ago, sailors on Second Wind, who were parked next to us at Franklin Lock came over for a visit.
It’s good to be tied to a wall today and tomorrow with these high winds.

Rich is bundled up against the wind at the wall in Ft Myers.

Rich is bundled up against the wind at the wall in Ft Myers.

Back to Anchor

After 3 days at Franklin Lock Marina we went through the lock again and slowly (4 mph) headed back downstream on the Caloosahatchee River to anchor at Power Plant Slough again. We passed the scene of the crime – where we had to get towed. It was a short, easy trip. The current in the river and in the slough is lower today – they must have closed some upstream dams.
The windlass is leaking again but the helpline at Imtra seems to think there’s just too much oil in it so I’m trying not to worry. When we get to Marathon we’ll order a new sight gauge – we can’t see through ours.
We’re having trouble with our new Simultalk radios. One wouldn’t work this morning. Fortunately for the small lock we did’t really need them. Rich called the company. The rep suggested switching the batteries. Rich did and for now they are both working. I hope they both work tomorrow – we need them to pull into the busy Ft Myers Marina (busy because it’s boat show time).

Putting slowly down the Caloosahatchee River.

Putting slowly down the Caloosahatchee River.

Several firsts – good day

We continued east on the Calasahoochee River this morning and went through Franklin Lock (the fist 1st). It was a docile lock – only 2 ft rise. You can see in the photo it was a dark & blowing day.

Approaching Franklin Lock on a dark blustery day.

Approaching Franklin Lock on a dark blustery day.

Then we docked at the campground/marina upstream of the lock. Some other boaters caught our lines and made docking easy. We have electrics (1st since we left) and I did  laundry (another 1st). Rich washed the boat ( not a first).

Tonight there’s a pot luck and we’re looking forward to some socializing. The cats aren’t as thrilled to be docked, but the have easy other for comfort.

A tight fit by choice.

A tight fit by choice.

Snuggling is good when you're in a strange marina.

Snuggling is good when you’re in a strange marina.

Grounded

Another first for us – grounded and needed a tow. We were anchored. It had taken us 2 tries to get the anchor to hold. But finally we were set. The problem was tat we were in a strong current. I went back to Active Captain and reread the reviews on this anchorage. The anchor symbol was in a channel up the river but the channel showed shallow depths. Their reviews said they were out of the current.

So we decided to give it a try. We hauled the anchor and headed to the other channel- and went solidly aground. It went from deep to very shallow before the debth gauge could register.

We called TowBoatUS and had to wait an hour for him to arrive. Meanwhile I had to radio to each passing boat and ask them to slow to no wake – the waves they generated pushed us further aground.

TowBoat US arrives -a very nice guy. He ties onto us and pulls us back into the channel. He had us check the strainers, test our control systems, then towed us into the channel while he finished the paperwork.

Two hours after leaving our anchorage we were back anchored in the same spot. So today we practiced going aground and getting towed – lesson completed.

Tied & ready to pull.

Tied & ready to pull.

Pulling hard.

Pulling hard.

Pulling hard.

Pulling hard.

Some final paperwork.

Some final paperwork.

TowBoatUS arrives

TowBoatUS arrives

Adjusting to boat life

Ibis exploring the surf at Cayo Costa.

Ibis exploring the surf at Cayo Costa.

All 4 of us are adjusting to boat life. Before leaving I sketched out a tentative plan for our travels. We haven’t stuck to the plan for a single day. The first day was short, stopping before an open water crossing to wait for lower winds. Day 2 we crossed comfortably and anchored  at Cayo Costa – still very close to home.
We spent a wonderful relaxing day exploring by dinghy, beach combing and trail hiking.

Beaching the dinghy at Cayo Costa.

Beaching the dinghy at Cayo Costa.

My plan had us stopping at anchorages near Sanibel and at the south end of Pine Island. But, the forecast is for increasing winds and rain so we opted to cross the more open water and get the “miserable mile” behind us. We’re now anchored in Glover Bight in Cape Coral at the mouth of the Caloosahatchee River. Now if winds and rains appear we’re in a river away from big stretches of sea.
Most things are going well. We have a few glitches. The windlass isn’t working fully, the autopilot started making a noise, and our new inverter won’t charge. If it were’nt for mechanical systems, this boating stuff would be fun. We’re now farther away from home than we’ve fewer been in the boat. Each day is filled with a series of firsts.