Local Knowledge

Travelogue - January 13, 2007

We've continued on our voyage south. We left Pelican Bay on January 7 and arrived safely in the recommended anchorage in Roosevelt Channel, adjacent to Captiva Island, early Sunday afternoon. It was a nice visit - not too many things were different from our first visit here, chronicled in Travelogue #3, January 7, 2006, except:

Roosevelt ChannelWe had a tough time finding an adequately deep place to anchor in here because, although last year's derelict boats are now safely out of the way (two have been blown into the mangroves of Buck Key and one is in the shallows) there are four additional "stored" sailboats in the anchorage, all occupying the deepest most secure place.

We were working on our third attempt to settle in when a friendly fellow chugged toward us in a modified fishing boat named the Miss Captiva. He told us where the sand bar runs (we had already discovered it for ourselves, thank you) and he suggested a place where we could set our anchor.

Tangential FYI: the quest is not to find one specific deep place for the anchor itself, but rather to find a place with adequately deep water in a circle all around the anchor's location, the radius of the circle being the length of one's ground tackle. The exercise requires some guesswork. Or, local knowledge.

Roosevelt Channel looking south Our knowledgeable local said, "Don't worry about swinging out into the channel..." which is exactly what I was worried about, but he assured me he'd been there for years and nobody every complained. Still, we don't want to impede navigation, so we stepped back a ways.

Anyway, I was a tad impatient by this time, so I told him, "We need to be right about where that blue hulk is...", pointing to the sad-looking, neglected blue sailboat. He said, "That's my boat, and I'm not moving it." Oh. Um. Well. Hmm. I stand by my characterization, though it was certainly a faux pas and I wish I hadn't said it. Too late to backpeddle.

I said, "She needs some T.L.C." He said, "Yeah, that's what Wilma did to her." Tsk tsk. Hey buddy, note to self: Hurricane Wilma happened a year ago. If he plans to do something to salvage his boat, he probably wants to get started pretty quickly. She's taking on water from a broken window, poor thing, and will probably sink right there. Right in the best spot in a limited anchorage. Of course, we did thank him profusely for his trouble and his helpful advice.

Too bad I alienated our only source of information. I would like to have asked him, what's that mysterious melody wafting on the wind? It seems to come from the mangrove island. It sounds like a flute, or wooden wind chimes. Or the breeze whistling through broken windows and rusting hulls. It's a beautiful sound and shall remain a mystery, I guess.

Water, water everywhere, but...

water tanks Update on the ruptured hose event: Sure enough, we did run out of water. I think it's because of the broken pipe; Rick insists that I 'fess up and admit that it's possible that I haven't been filling the water tanks properly. My technique is, when water starts to spew back out of the infill pipe, I turn off the hose. Don't want to waste water, ya know. He says I should keep going until water spews out the tank vent. I'll compromise, and I'll work out a flange or something to avoid wasting water.

In the meantime, we were in "dry camp" mode for about three days. Not a problem: The "heads" flush with sea water, and we had over five gallons of bottled water for drinking and washing in just such an emergency. Many sailboaters on long passages have less set aside, so we were able to manage with no problems. Anyway, it was a good exercise in water conservation and appreciation.

Dining, Beach Walking and Socializing at Captiva Island

So, we stayed at Captiva Island from Sunday through Friday, hunkered down and waiting out some high winds. It is a nice place, many people come here for the beaches. We did go in to town several times:

Lady Chadwick Monday we dinghied in early for breakfast. We puttered back north in the channel to Lady Chadwick's T-dock. The Lady Chadwick is a passenger ferry. We've seen her at Useppa Island, Boca Grande and Cabbage Key. Our most notable encounter with her was last year on our first passage north of Captiva. It was a stormy blowy day, and her captain endeared himself to me forevermore, by radioing to inform us on his plans to pass ("Two whistle pass" meant he was going to pass us on his starboard side.) It was a courteous gesture made by a professional, in striking contrast to the many who would just as soon blast you to the bottom with their wake and never look back.

Lady Chadwick, bow Anyway. So we slipped around Lady Chadwick at Red 12 - look past her in the photo above, left, and you will see the long dock and overgrown ramp at the far end. We tied Bump Head to one of the pilings on the far outside then waded in. A few soggy steps later we were "downtown", at the intersection of Captiva Drive and Andy Rosse Lane.

R.C. Otters We had a delicious breakfast at RC Otter's, sitting outside on the terrace and listening to Billy Joel's "Complete Hits Collection" on CD. The waitress even brought us the CD insert so we could see the titles of songs we'd never heard before.

Mitch We stayed close to Sea Gator the rest of that day and the next, getting work done and keeping an eye on things. By mid-week we were again walking the beach looking for shells and enjoying the surf. We had a very late lunch at the Key West Bistro, sharing crab cakes and salad. Mitch accompanied himself on guitar, right - he was very good indeed and we enjoyed our time there. The Key Lime Bistro is highly recommended.

Captiva Island beach Thursday, more work was followed by more beach walking. As you can see from the photo, left, Captiva Island's beaches are legendary for a good reason - they are really nice. We turned our steps south while Rick observed the surf and I walked with my head down searching for THE perfect shell.

When I heard our names called I was confused - nobody knows us here. But out of thin air there were Don and Gillian, strolling northbound with some of their friends! What an amazing coincidence, meeting right there in the middle of the beach. When we had bid them "farewell and happy cruising" in the Boca Grande Bayou before Christmas they were bound for the Caloosahatchee River. We learned they had subsequently put Jazz on blocks for cosmetic work far up the river and come to the beach in their car. It was a pleasant surprise.

This heron was a fun meeting, also. The bird seemingly had no fear, and walked toward me. I took a photo of just about each one of his very deliberate, very statuesque steps. He walked past me, then past Rick, then continued his constitutional southward, accompanied by a continuous click clickety click of everyone else's cameras.

Knoxville gang of four After our walk we sat down at one of the beach-side tables at The Mucky Duck. While enjoying our cool drinks we were pleased to share our table with four fun folks from Knoxville, TN: Wade, Linda, Elva and Dave. They are long-time friends who all live on the Little Tennessee River and have vacationed together for years. We discussed their boating experiences, our boating experiences, their retirement, our home town, their grand kids, Rick's work, sea shells, and exorbitant real estate prices. It was a nice time. And Linda and Elva wore the most fabulous shoes I'd seen all day.

Seaplane Seaplane Back to Sea Gator. It was a good thing we decided to stay back from the channel. A sea plane used the length of the channel to take off and land when the wind was from the north. Very cool! Here he is on another day, taking off into the east wind. Rick counted: the plane lifted off the surface of the water after only four seconds at speed, and not a bank or a circle but straight over the mangroves. It was very fun to watch!

"I have always depended on the kindness of strangers."

On Friday, January 12, we weighed anchor and headed south to Ft. Myers Beach. The town of Ft. Myers Beach is on Estero Island, a barrier island just south of the mouth of the Caloosahatchee River. We followed the channel markers around to the relatively protected Estero Bay, between the island and the mainland.

The fellow at the Matanzas Inn (which is the newly-appointed harbormaster for Ft. Myers Beach's city-owned mooring buoy field) had promised we could get a water fill-up right away. This proved to be a false hope, as the Inn does not set aside a designated slip to provide water, and all their slips were (and remain to this moment) fully occupied and inaccessible. It was still pretty windy so we were willing to forego that boat maneuvering challenge, anyway.

Mooring buoy We had never used a mooring buoy before, but the general idea is that you approach into the wind and the bow of your boat draws close to the buoy, then you use your boathook to snare the line or its float and pull the mooring line aboard, and secure your boat to the line.

What happened is this: I lay on the bow of Sea Gator and snared one of four 1/2 inch lines floating out from the mooring buoy. These are for lifting the main line, but they did not. I looped one over our capstan (the stable thingy that retrieves the anchor), then snared and secured a second and a third. Still no mooring line. Weird. I even managed to drop - and then retrieve - the boathook throughout this process (yep, almost lost this website's namesake overboard in one instant).

Lines on the bow A family was dingying past and I hailed them. "Yoo hoo, yoo hoo! Excuse me, is this right? This doesn't seem right."

They motored over and agreed that the small lines should lift the big line. After some examination and poking around the barnacle-infested buoy they informed us that the mooring line had sunk and was wrapped tightly around the buoy's anchor line. The adjacent buoy which they checked completely lacked a mooring line, as did the next and the next.

We passed them our long secondary anchor line ("Mr. Stinky", because he had absorbed the gear oil dripping onto him in the chain locker from the windlass above - pee-eww), which they looped through a chafing loop at the base of the mooring line. They left with our thanks ringing in their ears.

Later, Rick went out with Bump Head and some barnacle-resistant heavy gloves, and unwound the mooring line. We looped one of our lines through it, and kept Mr. Stinky in place. So we have two lines attached to the buoy, as shown in the photo above, left: Mr. Stinky on the right, the mooring line on the left. The extra lines on the far left are the 1/2 lines floating merrily along.

The photo above, right, shows Mr. Stinky going out the starboard chock toward the buoy and coming back in the same way, looping for security around the windlass, and then heading starboard to be cleated. The same procedure secures the other line on the port side. We're in good shape.

Which brings us to our time in sunny Ft. Myers Beach, but that's another Travelogue.

Happy sailing, y'all and please oh please stay warm and safe, and be sure those buoy lines are securely attached to your bow!

Pat, Rick and Goldie

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