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Ft. Myers Beach

Travelogue - February 8, 2007

Notes to Cruisers

We've learned some ways to get things done in Ft. Myers Beach. So we'll recount our findings in detail on a new page, "Notes to Cruisers". Access it here or from the Travelogue index page.

Nothing is ever simple

Goldie Well, things ARE simple for Goldie. She just wants to be the first one out the hatch and collecting sun in the morning. Here she waits patiently for someone with opposable thumbs to open the door.

Two weeks ago, we had a plan to depart. The plan included fetching water, getting our holding tank pumped out, and continuing fine weather. Things were coming together nicely.

Except the pump out boat didn't come, and the weather turned. And we decided that driving Sea Gator to fetch water was a plan that needed improvement.

Long story short, we decided to stay a couple more weeks in Ft. Myers Beach. We've stayed here a month - that's a record for us in one place! - and it has worked out just fine.

Dingy rodeo Life in the mooring field is interesting. Here is one of the gentlemen who drives his dingy standing up. Well, I guess it keeps your clothes nice, provided you stay atop the boat. Which they all did, as far as I could tell. They even did it successfully in the wind and waves and cold.

Speaking of the weather, except for a few key mornings like the one which inspired Goldie's promenade it's been unseasonably cold and blustery here. One morning it was 51 degrees ON the boat, inside. Brr! I know that doesn't seem cold to most of you, but INSIDE!?! I wore fleece-lined canvas pants and layered sweaters, and wrapped a blanket around myself at the computer. It wasn't what one pictures as the "boating" life. But yesterday we walked the beach in shorts and sandals, along with half of the population of Florida. It was perfect.

Rick on the Matanzas Pass Bridge Right, see Rick on the Matanzas Pass bridge. The Matanzas Inn is directly in front of him; see boats in its slips, the two-story Inn restaurant with deck, and its canal heading off into the distance. The mooring field is off screen to the left - I've pasted it in under the "More Water" heading, below. There appears to be a lot of extra anchorage to the left of the mooring field, doesn't there? Nope, there is not. There is a channel for the fishing/shrimping fleet to traverse, but the rest is very shallow. We'll see more of this area later.

Water water water water

Cool drinks on the beach We have met quite a number of sailboaters and trawler folk, and we've talked to many of them about their water fetching solutions. The consensus is, most everyone ferries water in jerrycans via dinghy, a jug or two at a time. Yikes! I was amazed: although I'd seen jerrycans on sailboats it didn't occur to me that they could fetch enough water to be worthwhile on a daily basis; I thought it was for an emergency. But apparently that's how they all do it.

Well, others more experienced than ourselves make it work, who are we to not give it a try? One very kind couple offered the loan of their jerrycans, but although we appreciated the generous gesture we knew we'd have to get serious soon. So we embarked on an expedition to Ace Hardware and brought back two six-gallon plastic jerrycans for Sea Gator's very own.

And, we began lugging jugs. We carried the jugs to a hose bib, filled 'em up, then Rick staggered back to Bump Head (6 gallons x 8.35 lbs.per gallon x 2 = 100.2 lbs - have to carry both or risk tipping over). Back at Sea Gator he hoisted them to the swim platform, then I held a funnel and Rick poured the water in. I thought it would be tricky because the inlet is on a vertical surface, but with a flexible funnel spout it's been fine.

Then we started packing along a hose with which to fill the cans directly as they sit in the dinghy. Even better!

So each time we went to land we brought the water jugs. Lo and behold, before we were expecting it our tank was full! So now we're storing extra water, which is really nice, in case (god forbid) we have another leak.

This is a brand new thing for us, and we are glad we finally saw the light. Fetching our own water in our own cans - although potentially tedious especially compared to pulling up to a hose and pumping in 150 gallons at one shot - offers numerous advantages, the greatest being independence and self-sufficiency. I'm guessing it will really simplify our lives in the Keys. This is all good, since an on-board water-maker had not even made it to the wish list.

More Water, and a Laundry Room

Mooring field There are two washers and two dryers here, available to all land-based guests of the Inn and all the folks on the 70-or-so mooring buoys. Needless to say, the laundry room is a hub of activity! One shows up with laundry and, if the machines are empty, fine and good. If they are occupied, you go get a cup of coffee at the office, and settle down for some waiting and, if you're lucky, visiting. No point going back to the boat: it's about a half-mile dinghy ride, and you'd loose your place in line to boot.

That's where we learned a lot from others about water options. One more thing we learned: You can get a large weed-sprayer (the kind that you pump up for pressure and dispense with a spray wand), fill with water heated on the stove and use for washing dishes and showering. That would be a great way to monitor your water use. We haven't gone that far yet, but it's a good thing to know.

We also met Sally and Ron C. of the 32' catamaran Adventure. Their home port is in Rhode Island, Rick's old stomping grounds. Adventure departed last Friday on a night passage directly across the Gulf to Key West. The passage happens at night, because it's 20 hours of sailing time and you want to arrive at your destination in daylight. Sally phoned from Key West exactly 24 hours later to tell us that the passage was beautiful and they made it safe and sound. So now Rick is seriously considering a night passage for our return trip from the Keys in early May - if the weather is perfect, it sounds good to me. Anyway, Adventure will still be there on April 1st when we arrive for our designated slip, so there is lots more fun to be had and good company to be shared.

And we met many other people who had enjoyed the bagpipes in the night. That ship has sailed, so to speak, but it has been replaced by someone who blows a conch shell at sunset. It sounds like a single note from a french horn. It is very exotic as the sun sinks below the palm trees.

Boats in Estero Bay

Fleet There sure are a lot of fishing boats sitting idle across the Bay, lined up three and four deep. And we hear about a lot of fishermen out of work.

Joe, a fisherman himself, blames the water. He described the pollutants (fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides) being pumped from industrial plantations into Lake Okeechobee, and the ruined wildlife and fisheries habitat and catastrophic "red tides" in the Gulf as a result.

Well, it sounds cut and dried. Why isn't the government making them fix it?

Joe replied, "Those couple of rich bastards are so far up the ass of the politicians they'll never get out." (Note: names have been changed).

In fact, the mess Joe was talking about is no secret and there seems to be a consensus about the toxicity of the effluent. A quick Google search found that, in 2002, Earthjustice filed a lawsuit against the South Florida Water Management District on behalf of the Florida Wildlife Federation, arguing that the Water District is responsible for cleaning up the pollution it collects and transports and pumps into the Lake, in the same way a city is responsible for cleaning up sewage it collects in its sewage system before discharging the wastewater.

On December 11, 2006 a verdict was rendered in favor of the plaintiffs: Court Rules Pumping Polluted Water into Lake Okeechobee Violates Clean Water Act:

Tallahassee, FL -- A federal judge today issued a decision in a case brought by Earthjustice on behalf of Florida Wildlife Federation to require the South Florida Water Management District to comply with the Clean Water Act... "This is a big victory not just for Lake Okeechobee but for drinking water sources around the United States," Earthjustice attorney David Guest said.

...The court found the water district has repeatedly violated the Act by pumping billions of gallons of polluted runoff water into Lake Okeechobee in order to cheaply dispose of contaminated flood water... The state and EPA have designated Lake Okeechobee as the state's largest surface drinking water source.

...In June 2006, in an effort to circumvent the Lake Okeechobee case and other legal challenges, the EPA proposed to change existing Clean Water Act rules to exempt from the law those that transfer polluted water. Under the proposal, EPA would allow contaminants to be dumped into drinking water sources as well as lakes and streams by water transfer operations...

...Because the United States intervened in the lawsuit on behalf of EPA and the United States Army Corps of Engineers, the United States is bound by the court's order finding the District in violation of the Clean Water Act. As the court explained:

"No agency interpretation or court order for that matter can alter the unambiguous congressional intent expressed in a statute and the Court thus rejects the interpretation proposed by the EPA... Accordingly, water transfers between distinct water bodies that result in the addition of a pollutant to the receiving navigable water body are subject to the [National Pollution Discharge Elimination System] Order at p. 83-84."

So we'll keep faith, and we'll see what happens.

Visit from Pam and Don

New anchor Pam and Don V. finally left the frozen northlands behind them again. They are working hard to get Gallivant up and running for the season. We met them last year at the Englewood anchorage - see Travelogue 7.

This summer Don, a metal fabricator, created a new anchor for Gallivant - here it is in their truck waiting to be unpacked. This one is a prototype; if it passes the test it will be recast in a higher grade stainless steel and it will be a thing of beauty.

On the beach Last week via cell phone Pam had directed me to the back of the Topps grocery store, past the neighborhood biker bar/laundromat, past the dumpsters, to a weedy vacant lot and a mangrove-sheltered canal which is the waterside option for dinghying to groceries at Topps. So on this day, together we walked the beach to Topps, and in the back we encountered several neighbors relaxing on a soggy sofa and drinking beers and smoking cigarettes. "Hi there!" we chirped, and we strolled down to the mangroves and debated the canal's merits. I think I prefer the well-maintained Snooke Bight Marina and its conscientious harbormaster. Although Topps has good bread and lots of miscellaneous items and in that way it reminded me pleasantly of Faler's in Pinedale.

Magician We finally returned to Rick and Don. Above right you see the gang - with Topps bread - and the Pier in the background. Then we walked up to Times Square just in time for a magic show! This fellow's energetic patter was a lot of fun, and he reminded me of the performers at the sunset festival at Key West.

It was a nice visit with Pam and Don. So nice, in fact, that before we knew it it was way after dark. We borrowed Don's flashlight so Rick could unlock Bump Head's combination lock, and we hugged our farewell-see-you-laters and headed out. But we didn't get away clean.

A voice called from the fishing pier overhead, warning us we'd get a ticket for operating a motorized vessel without a light. I waved him off, but Rick was suitably respectful because he'd realized, as I hadn't, that the interested stranger was a Sheriff's deputy. Oops. Next project: running lights for Bump Head.

M/V St.Pete.Com

We watched SeaTow haul the shell of a very large boat to mooring buoy #3. Three guys linked her to the buoy's tether, then departed on their dinghy. We all checked her out as we ferried back and forth. She looked like she'd suffered some, been stripped and battered for sure, and needed some serious T.L.C. LOTS of T.L.C.

Then it became very windy here for several days. While others were experiencing tornadoes further north near Orlando, we did have several days of strong winds, and cold as I mentioned above.

St.Pete.Com aground And in the morning of the calm, there was the unfortunate St.Pete.Com - distinctly grounded upon the sand bar on the far side of the mooring field. Holy cow! It is almost impossible to imagine that she broke loose from her mooring, danced her jig between boats clear across the field, and fetched up on the bar all without snagging or bashing anyone else, but that's what happened.

Her three guys came out to poke around at the mooring buoy for awhile - what a horrible day they must have been having. We didn't stop to chat. We conjectured mightily though, worried about buoy maintenance and our own security. But it wasn't until Pam and I went to the Matanzas Inn's office that we garnered some facts.

Across the mooring field The Inn's manager said simply "They tied up wrong." Well yeah, I guess. We learned that they had run their line out a forward chock, looped it once through the tether, then run it back aboard through another chock on the other side and secured both ends. Ah ha...

This invites problems: As the bow of the boat moves around in wind or current, the fixed line inevitably saws back and forth through the loop. Chafing occurs. In this case, the smaller line (they'd used a 1/2" line) just happened to break before the larger one did.

What will happen to poor St.Pete.Com now? Several high tides have come and gone, and she sits on her sandbar in front of everyone, bewildered. It's a shame.

A New Look

When you're ferrying your water by dinghy, you tend to jealously guard every drop. I noticed that my hair was getting a bit too long when it came to shampooing. Hmmm - this is a serious dilemma, as some of you can understand. I asked around for referrals and didn't come up with much, so I took a chance. On a walk through town I stepped into Armando's Day Spa ("Voted the BEST by locals and tourists") and made an appointment with Shelley.

Shelley and I both arrived at her door promptly at 9:00 the next morning. She stepped out of her sporty mustang wearing platform shoes, tight jeans, and green and glitter eyeshadow. Her long platinum blond hair swung to her waist. Hmm. SO not my style.

But she promised me she could do short hair, and what the heck, right? Hair grows back so what's not to like? She made coffee for us and got to work.

New 'do And I don't claim to be an expert on hair techniques, but I DO know that Shelley was one of the nicest people I've met here. She had a soft voice and a very open and gentle manner.

Shelley is a rare specimen: a native Floridian. She was born in Okeechobee and she grew up driving air boats and riding horses. She worked a stint as a cowgirl, but no, she said, they didn't do seasonal roundups on the open range as they do in Wyoming, but they did a lot of moving cattle from pasture to pasture. She was impressed that I knew this amazing fact: There are more cattle in Florida than there are in Texas. She also worked for her granddad on his fishing boats in Key West during the summers, although she said she always got seasick. Don't you get seasick? she asked me. Not yet, I replied, knocking on her nice countertop.

After my haircut she gave me a tour of the Spa - it was beautifully finished and they take their work seriously: a sign on the door said "Do Not Let Door Slam" to avoid disturbing clients having their soothing massage.

I enjoyed meeting Shelley. My hair is as short as it's ever been - I can make it stand up with ease, I just have to watch out I don't get carried away because I'm one finger-fluff away from a Lyle Lovett pompador. If we're here next winter when the 'do hits critical mass I will go back to Shelley. Besides, by then it will be time to see pictures of her new grandbaby.

Super Bowl Sunday

What bowl what? Whatever. On Sunday, Rick (who really DOES care about SBS) and I journeyed to Ace Hardware, then continued to West Marine all in the quest for running lights for that scofflaw Bump Head.

By the time we got home Terry and Kitty had called about the Super Bowl. Rick and I were leery about pressing our luck after dark, so they came to our boat for the game. It was a very nice time, "go Colts woo", and I learned a new treat from Kitty: fresh strawberries, dipped in a sour cream/yogurt blend, then sprinkled with brown sugar. Wow! She is amazing: she BAKES on their sailboat, in an oven on gimbals. I'm impressed. Not enough to embark on that sort of thing myself, mind you, but impressed just the same and I sure am grateful for her sharing her brownies with us.

Other Excellent Finds

Matanzas Pass Preserve We were jonesing for fancy coffee while it was so cold, so we walked over the bridge and a few doors down from Maine's Best Seafood (good breakfast spot) to the Cafe Renaisance Bistro. The proprietress was very nice, very friendly. She offered us excellent coffee and pastries. She had streudels, and also hot soups and sandwiches. We enjoyed our donut and muffin and would definitely go there again at the next cold snap.

Blueway sign Enough is soon enough where traffic is concerned. Rick and I stepped off the road and into a different world at Matanzas Pass Preserve. It was a welcome respite to the hustle and bustle of the beach town. There are a few miles of trails among the mangroves and other plant communities. Believe it or not, there are just so darned many plants everywhere, I'm having a hard time distinguishing one "community" from another. But it was a great walk. Here is a view from the kayak launch site, across to Rick at the shaded overlook. There is the channel behind him.

I say "kayak launch" because the Preserve is also a mapped stop on a kayak trail - the Great Calusa Blueway. It was an wonderful find.

Mound House Another day, we stopped at the Mound House. You can follow the signs to from the street, or dinghy to their dock to visit. Or take your kayak there, because it is also a stop on the Great Calusa Blueway.

Mound House See: here's the house, on its mound. This is on the highest (no, seriously) site on the Island, as the house was built on the prehistoric remains of the native Calusa Indians' midden heap. It's also the oldest house (no, seriously) on the island. The City is working to preserve and restore the site, and Rick and I met with the acting superintendent of the project. With her cooperation, I will tell you all about the project as soon as possible. Stay tuned.

On that same day, we stopped at the Community Art Association and viewed the excellent and inspiring water colors and acrylics. They had a stack of references for art supply sources, thus I found juicy catalogs for www.cheapjoes.com and www.danielsmith.com. With these sources, in addition to www.dickblick.com, and the watercolors June gave me, the evaporation of my litany of excuses for not working on any art projects is complete.

Sunny Ft. Myers Beach All in all, I have nothing to report. We've walked and walked the beach, and talked and talked with fellow cruisers. On Friday, we move out to new ports.

Hope you are all well, and keeping warm

Pat, Rick and Goldie

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