From Tiny No-See-Ums to Huge White Pelicans

Travelogue - March 1, 2008

Shireen confirmed our suspicions and garnered extra credit by submitting supporting documentation with her response to last month's "What does Cacafuego mean?" contest.

Cacafuego The Spanish galleon Nuestra Señora de la Concepción was a 120 ton vessel that sailed the Peru - Panama route during the 16th century. This ship has earned a place in maritime history not only by virtue of being Sir Francis Drake's most famous prize, but also because of her colorful nickname...

The foregoing is an excerpt from the Wikipedia article Shireen sent. History buffs, Patrick O'Brian fans and Spanish language students, check it out.

Shireen, your prize is a bunch of seashells - including Lettered Olives (Oliva sayana) - which we collected on the beach at Don Pedro Park and which will be mailed to you sooner rather than later, one may always hope.

Congratulations and thanks for playing.

'Tis the Season

Charlotte Harbor was calm and quiet when we headed in to La Marina a couple of weeks ago. But when we departed La Marina and reversed our path across the harbor on our outgoing journey - holy smokes - what a sight! There were upwards of 50 boats in sight at any given time. I counted. That's the January- February- March rush in Florida.

Crowded docks Here's another example, a place which had been quiet and serene and which was now jam packed. This photo, taken a couple of days later, shows the docks at Don Pedro State Park at mid-day. There was no room for little Bump Head. Ah well. At the sight we turned around and motored back to Sea Gator for several hours to let the crowds taper off.

Cape Haze

On February 16 we crossed Charlotte Harbor west-bound. When we intersected the Intracoastal Waterway at the mouth of Charlotte Harbor, we turned north. We bypassed Gasparilla Island and the town of Boca Grande, and I didn't pay any attention because I was on the phone with my friend Julie B. Hi Julie! Xoxoxoxo!

Later we idled in place waiting for the Boca Grande Swing Bridge's scheduled opening. Try saying that three times in a row, which I had to do when I radioed them to check the schedule:

Boca Grande swing bridge "Boca Grande Bridge
Boca Gran Gridge
Bubba Brand Bwidge..."

I'm surprised they even answered my hail.

Incidentally, this is the first bridge one encounters while heading northward up Florida's west coast. So we didn't go through any bridges at all last year, because last year we had ventured south from Charlotte Harbor.

So here we were again. While we waited for the bridge to swing open, Rick mused about our first time at this, our first bridge, two years ago. We had had to idle in place against tide and wind and it was pretty nerve-wracking then. Rick is a much more experienced pilot now and it was no problem for him.

The last time we came through this bridge, southward bound on our last cruise of the season, we had hustled to get here for an early opening at 7:30 a.m. But the bridge stayed closed and the tender didn't answer the radio. Finally, through the binoculars we saw him strolling up from the parking area toward the control house, carrying a styrofoam cup and what looked suspiciously like a pastry bag. He was not contrite but he gave us an unscheduled opening.

Charted Cape Haze The photo above shows the bridge just beginning its swing open. There's the control house to the right, and the bridge's pivot point on the left. The massive structure pivots on its center so boat traffic can pass on either side. Of course, shorter boats just zip underneath without waiting for an opening.

Thirty minutes later we entered the Cape Haze anchorage, which is a small cove just off the main channel. It is surrounded by concrete seawalls and nice homes. This is where we met Little Mick and Aurora our first year, so we have fond memories. The travelogue from those days includes photos and a link to charts.

There were two sailboats already here so we tiptoed around them, then it took us three tries to successfully set our anchor in this sloppy (dredged) bottom. Eventually we were securely settled in and tidying up after the cruise. All was well.

A Tangent

Clean mooring tackle Speaking of Little Mick, we chatted with Gary and Mickey on the way across Charlotte Harbor. They had phoned us from Ft. Myers Beach and they thanked us for leaving them a nice clean buoy (#46) free of barnacles and oysters and crusties. Ha ha, really what are the odds that was one of the buoys we stayed on?

Well, I checked our log book and guess what? We WERE at #46, and you betcha Rick is the reason it was nice and clean! So, you're welcome. Another amazing coincidence in the lives of boaters.

Renewing Ties to the Past

And speaking of coincidences, as I mentioned in the last Travelogue we had recently learned that my cousin's ex-husband and father of her children lives in Cape Haze, which is literally right around the corner from Charlotte Harbor. This is amazing, because the last time we'd seen Moe and his wife, Pat, was at his son's wedding in Farson Wyoming - you heard me - back in '93 or so.

Several emails and phone calls, one five-hour cruise and three anchoring attempts later, we welcomed Moe and Pat aboard.

Visiting with Moe and Pat It was fun to visit with them and share stories of his family (be concerned, Ed, be very concerned). Rick enjoyed reminiscing as both Moe and Pat are originally from New England and they have all skied some of the same slopes.

As relative newcomers to Florida (five years full-time) Moe and Pat are enthusiastic and keen observers, and so they provided us a wealth of information about flora and fauna and "local knowledge" about various boating conditions.

Moe has obtained his Captain's license and now serves with the U. S. Coast Guard Auxiliary. He asked us if we wanted him to do another spot safety check and we declined (because we have posted our solid waste disposal plan "don't dump trash duh" we know we are in compliance).

He also represents the area's USCGA Flotilla on the 21-member Charlotte County Marine Advisory Committee. Under the auspices of the Charlotte County Commissioners the board makes recommendations to governments of all the County's water-front cities on topics of boating safety and convenience. Moe indicated that the committee is advisory only but that they have received admirable cooperation.

Our boating friends will say, "Ooh ooh, did you ask him about...?" Yes, we did: Derelict boats (please report their location), mooring fields (Sarasota and Englewood are in the process), pump outs (should be available at all Clean Marinas), recycling bins at marinas (that's a County-wide problem), boat traffic and signage (can't post new signs in the waterways), and Cuban boat people (if on water they must go back, if on land they can stay). If you want to reach the Commission with questions or comments, contact Jane Starr at 941-743-1238.

Coast Guard Auxiliary Too bad the board can't influence people's manners, but that's where the Auxiliary comes in. Moe can issue citations. I wish I could. A fishing boat just about thrummed across our anchor line as I was writing this.

Anyway, we enjoyed our visit with them aboard Sea Gator our first evening, and the next morning for breakfast at their home. Which is conveniently located just a few docks down the canal from the barnacle- and oyster-infested seawall which we had thought was our only dinghy option (the wall is a fine option for hard-sided dinghies but with its hazards it's not good for pontoons such as Bump Head's). We visited their place one last time a few days later, borrowing their dock to secure Bump Head while we walked to the nearby post office and grocery store.

Thank you, Moe and Pat!

No See Ums

Again with the no-see-ums.

Life-sized Biting midges can be a nuisance to campers, fishermen, hunters, hikers, gardeners, and others who spend time outdoors during early morning and evenings, and even during the daytime on still, cloudy days. They will readily bite humans; the bites are irritating, painful, and can cause long-lasting painful lesions for some people.

If that's not bad enough, there's more.

There are over 4,000 species of biting midges in the Ceratopogonidae family, and over 1,000 in just one genus, Culicoides. The distribution of midges in the genus Culicoides is world-wide; 47 species are known to occur in Florida. Species belonging to the genus Leptoconops occur in the tropics, sub-tropics, the Caribbean, and some coastal areas of southeast Florida.

We are currently conducting scientific experiments to isolate the most efficient post-bite relief. Preliminary results are in:

Ibuprofin. I discovered this method by accident. Rick is the control group since he declines any medication not absolutely essential to life. He is suffering, I am not.

Neosporin + Pain Relief ointment. This is successful in numbing the bite and medicating the wound.

Benadryl GEL "Extra Strength Itch Relief". Very successful.

Cortezone cream. Not so good. It might work but if so, it takes too long.

More data will be made available as we continue field tests throughout the season.

Don Pedro State Park

Driftwood Don Pedro State Park is yet another of Florida's coastal State Parks created to preserve "the Real Florida". It was originally used as a private retreat so there are some buildings and roads present. But the trails and beaches are serene.

The Park is just across the ICW from the Cape Haze anchorage. Crowded docks met us when we first arrived, as depicted above. So we retreated (discretion is the better part of valor when it comes to docking, you know) and returned to the anchorage to find that the sailboats had departed so we moved Sea Gator to a different spot in the anchorage with a bit more swing-room. We returned to the Park later. It was a good call, as by mid-afternoon we had the place nearly to ourselves.

Beach comber We walked the beach and found this amazing piece of drift wood. Rick declined to bring it home to decorate our garden.

We also encountered a couple of men shuffling slowly in the shallows and bending to sift through the sand. "What'cha doin' there?" we asked. They were seeking and finding fossilized sharks teeth! How very interesting.

Petrified sharks teeth We had thought that Stump Pass was the "shark's teeth capitol" of the world, what about that? It is, the man laughed, which is why everybody goes there and gets all the shark's teeth. Okay, good point. Today he and his friend had all of Don Pedro's sharks teeth to themselves.

And they found quite a few. Here are the specimens he pulled from his pocket to show us. Wow!

Isn't life interesting? You never know what you'll find: long-lost ex-cousins-in-law, unmovable lawn ornaments, prehistoric dentition. It's all good.

Cayo Costa

Southward bound out of Cape Haze, we enjoyed a couple of nights at anchor in the reliably wonderful Pelican Bay anchorage.

Slash Pine needles We went ashore just one morning, and walked one of the paths we hadn't traversed yet (Quarantine Trail to Pinewoods Trail to Cemetery Trail). The "pinewoods" consisted of stands of Slash Pine (Pinus elliottii), recognizable by their luxuriously long needles, as you see here on a youngster.

We wound up at the north end of the island overlooking Boca Grande Pass.

We ended our hike with a brief visit with Mark, the resident astronomer-ranger. He reported he'd had a clear telescopic view of the previous nights' full lunar eclipse.

"Eclipse?" we said. Rick and I turned to look at each other. We both looked back at Mark. "Eclipse?"

Yes, eclipse of the full moon. At 10:30 or so the orb was fully engaged. Which explains the problem, as we are "camping" and tucked snugly in bed by about 9:45. Shoot. An astronomical wonder at our very doorstep and we snoozed through the whole thing.


We haven't seen Jazz around anywhere, so I finally picked up the phone for a nice long chat with Don and Gillian W.

Rick, Gillian and Don 2005 Gillian said, "We're at Turkey Creek..." and I thought, Great! Maybe they'll come down-river while we're at Ft. Myers Beach or...

"...we sold Jazz."


As y'all may recall from our holiday '06 travelogue:

We were introduced to Jazz and her owners by way of Don's book, Seven Miles An Hour. ... The book is all about "Retiring on a Trawler with Cats". Rick and I found the book to be a great introduction to living aboard. With cat. Find it at Bluewater Books & Charts.

Gillian explained that they are now going to pursue world-wide travel adventures by land. Cool! We hope that the western United States is on their itinerary hint hint and we wish them all the best in their new adventures. Bon voyage!

Roosevelt Channel

Houseboats On Friday we left Pelican bay and headed south, dodging ridiculously heavy boat traffic in the ICW. Just a few hours south of Cayo Costa we dropped our hook in the narrow Roosevelt Channel which lies between Captiva Island and the undeveloped Buck Key. We've been here before, and the same dead boats are here plus a home-made houseboat. All owned by the same citizen, we believe. He's quite a collector.

Saturday morning we loaded up the bikes and dinghied in to town. First order of business: a short ride to the Captiva Library and its adjacent Community Center, where I hoped to find a group of friendly folks willing to discuss common problems and common solutions. A nice man greeted me and - whaddayaknow? - he had actually visited Pinedale and Jackson several times and this spring is heading to the Absaroka Mountains for a pack trip. That was a first for me.

Afterwards I returned to Rick, sweating under his shade tree, and we donned our bike helmets and began riding south toward the causeway to Sanibel Island, in hopes that we could - at last! - visit Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge.

Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge


The J. N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge is located on the subtropical barrier island of Sanibel in the Gulf of Mexico. The refuge is part of the largest undeveloped mangrove ecosystem in the United States. It is world famous for its spectacular migratory bird populations...

Refuge, aerial view We had first attempted to visit the Refuge in 1995. Rick and several of his siblings visited Don and Lu for Christmas that year and at Rick's urging we motored through nearly stationary holiday traffic to reach Sanibel. But guess what? This was the week of the government shutdown and so the Refuge drive was closed - blocked by a chain across the road. Rick was crushed. We visited the Sanibel lighthouse instead and I saw my first dolphin ever, swimming off the coast against the sunset.

We tried to visit via our own boat but didn't have calm weather appropriate to this exposed anchorage until just recently, at which time we learned that you can't really visit by dinghy.

Third time's the charm.

We headed south down the four -mile length of Captiva Island (no bike path and no shoulder), across the inlet and then another six miles (very nice bike path the entire island) to about mid-length of Sanibel Island to the Park headquarters and education center.

The photo above shows the wide ICW running left-to-right in the upper quarter (see the boat wake?), then immediately the many enclosed bays and islands of the refuge, and again left-to-right the one-way driving loop, and finally the bike- and hiking- only cutoff trail heading toward the lower right corner. The building on the cutoff trail is the picnic shelter where interpretive talks are held.

At the main visitors center we learned that J. N. "Ding" Darling was an accomplished cartoonist and preservationist who used his artistic and persuasive skills to convince the nation of the need for conservation and care of wildlife and wildlands:

J.N. Ding Darling
...Jay Norwood Darling (1876 - 1962) was to become one of the most well known men of his era. A nationally syndicated editorial cartoonist (and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner), he was famous for his witty commentary on many different subjects that concerned the nation.

An avid hunter and fisherman, Mr. Darling became alarmed at the loss of wildlife habitat and the possible extinction of many species. As an early pioneer for wildlife conservation, he worked this theme into his cartoons and influenced a nation.

In July 1934, President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed "Ding" Darling the Director of the U.S. Biological Survey, the forerunner of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In his 18 months as Director, Darling initiated the Federal Duck Stamp Program, designed the first duck stamp, and vastly increased the acreage of the National Wildlife Refuge System.

Darling also developed partnerships with state universities to train scientists in the emerging study of wildlife biology and was founder of the National Wildlife Federation and creator of the Cooperative Fish & Wildlife Research Unit Program. AND he designed the Blue Goose logo, the national symbol of the refuge system which now contains over 540 preserves.

White Pelicans There is a Ding Darling Wildlife Society which offers volunteer hours and financial assistance to the Refuge, and a Ding Darling Foundation which supported the Refuge, supplied teaching materials for conservation education and published a CD containing 6,800 of Ding's editorial cartoons.

The visitor's center had very nice exhibits of wildlife and birdlife and many of Darling's original drawings and sketches on display. The whole thing was well done, but the drawings were so unique they were my favorite. We ambled around in the air conditioning, then picked up a map of the Park's one-way scenic drive loop and we were on our way.

Bird's eye view The road was wide with a 15 MPH speed limit so we were entirely comfortable on our bikes. We saw many of Rick's favorite migrating waterfowl: the White Pelican (above right). They have the largest wingspan of any bird in the States short of a condor, according to Beverly. Rick had seen one across the valley from our house last fall and still revels in the wonder of that moment.

We stopped at the first walkway through the mangroves and there I learned something wonderful: "Birders" are very quiet. They whisper to each other along the boardwalks and at the lookout platforms. They speak in low excited murmurs when they spot a specimen. I've sure never witnessed such a demonstration of awe and reverence in a Yellowstone bearjam. It was humbling, like attending a friend's church as their guest.

Gators and Crocs We arrived at the picnic shelter in time for the presentation "Gators and Crocs". Right, the Park volunteer shares his knowledge on the topic. We learned that the Park has many many gators, but only one crocodile. The croc happens to be a solitary female, and she represents the northernmost individual in the crocodile species' range. She gets really cranky during mating season.

We learned that "A Fed Gator is a Dead Gator". I thought: What? Good gad you're kidding me, who would be foolish enough to feed a gator? Seriously! That's as incomprehensible as hand-feeding a grizzly bear. But later we saw a youngster, only four feet long (that's him - the thumbnail photo on the index page) and I have to say he was cute. Not cuddly, but cute. He looked harmless; of course the rangers reminded folks that he will grow.

Sanibel has had two deaths-by-alligator fairly recently, both committed by gators who were known to have received food from humans - what a horrific legacy. The law now allows any gator anywhere other than in the Refuge to be dispatched, so now any nervous home-owner can request a Town-sanctioned hit squad on any gator without cause. Whomever fed the initial gators has a lot to answer for.


The wind was at our back on the bicycle ride home up Sanibel and Captiva Islands, which was reassuring because that way we knew that Sea Gator would still be in her original position relative to neighboring boats.

Captiva shore When we retrieved Bump Head we were told by an employee of the adjacent marina that cruisers are not welcome to tie dinghies to the outside of the marina's pilings, even though the waterway itself is public. So what is a conscientious boater to do?

We were advised (with a heavy sigh and shrugging of shoulders) to throw ourselves on the mercy of the marina owner but not hold out much hope for clemancy. So, I introduced myself to the owner, told him we'd just learned from his employee that we'd inadvertently poached their pilings, our bad.

I asked his forgiveness and while I was at it his permission to come tie up in the same place the next day so we could have breakfast in town. He said, "Sure, no problem." I informed the employee on my way out that we'd be back for a few hours in the morning, and she told me I was lucky. Nope, I figured, just polite.

The next morning, Sunday, we immediately noticed that we were aground. Sea Gator sat with her keel delicately embedded in a few inches of mud, like a lady, patiently awaiting high tide. Since that moment was several hours away and the tide was now on its way up, we went ahead on to town. I stuck my head in at the marina office to thank them again and then we walked to breakfast at R. C. Otters, and it was excellent as usual.

Then we went for a long walk on the beach, above right, and that was a good way to loosen up the legs from the previous day's bike ride.

By the time we returned to Sea Gator she was afloat and spunky, and we hauled anchor and headed on out. It was not quite as easy as that, since I piloted us precisely right back onto the adjacent sand bar. But Rick extricated us and we were on our way, ever southward.

Glover Bight

We haven't been in the Calahoosatchee River stretch of the ICW since our first cruise, December of 2005. And I don't believe we were there on a weekend. Holy Cow! It was a boat freeway with unbelievably heavy boat traffic.

Glover Bight shoreline We departed the main channel after just a few miles and turned north into Glover Bight.

This is a large natural bay, nice and deep and safe for anchoring. One fishing boat was there when we arrived but they were not loaded for overnight and indeed, before sunset they left and we were alone in the bay.

We floated in silence, surrounded by untouched mangroves on the south, east and north. We thought we'd seen mangroves, but the groves we thought were so nice had been mangled by Hurricane Charley. We'd been told so, but what did we know of mangroves? Well, these were beautiful, the shoreline was a mass of glowing green.We secured the no-see-um screens on our door and hatch and settled in for a restful, peaceful night.

Glover Bight construction Well, we didn't mention the west shore, which features a quite nice marina surrounded by many condos. The cranes at the adjacent development fired up at about 7:00 a.m. We weren't surprised, that's some pricey equipment to let sit idle. We had breakfast with the muffled sound of construction work in the background, then we hoisted the anchor and rejoined the line of boats heading back downriver and thence south.

Stopover at Estero Bay and a Party

A storm was forecast so we cruised south for a couple of hours then came yet again into Estero Bay and the Matanzas mooring field. This is a safe stop-over and for the first time, we came NOT under duress of eminent dehydration! This marks our first arrival with satisfactory water tanks. This is how normal boating people live.

And we picked up our mooring with no problems. The equipment was clean and functional! I grabbed the floating tether with the boat hook and whipped it through the chock. I dropped the loop over the anchor bit, lickety-split, and leapt to my feet with both arms raised over my head in triumph like a champion steer roper beating the clock. I guess that's not normal.

Visiting family Later, I scanned the moorings with binoculars until I spotted Little Mick way off in the back forty. As we were still getting settled Gary and Micky came by in their dinghy on their way to the dock with their guests: their daughter Trina, her husband Travis and daughters Elise and Adele. We ran into them later in town and they invited us to their boat for supper. We became acquainted and re-acquainted during a pleasant evening of picnic fare.

The north forty with Little Mick featured an amazing surprise: every evening at dusk flocks of white ibis winged overhead on their way to roost. And in the last flock of the evening, Gary assured us, was a single scarlet ibis. We waited with great anticipation and poised cameras and - there they came! Oh my goodness, the red ibis shone like a stoplight among the snow-white birds. It was truly an amazing thing, we were all uplifted by the experience. Of course, my photo is just a dark blur of streaky forms in the dusk. Sorry you can't share the moment.

We went to breakfast with Gary's and Mickey's clan at Reese's one morning, and then Rick went back to work and I met with a group of like-minded women for a serene hour. I also poked my head in at Curves and Marja wasn't there, but the owner urged me to come in - unfortunately, I told her, I am sidelined with a stiff neck and couldn't partake. On a later walk I picked up our mail - below, Rick Bump Heads in to pick me up. Often we shuttled water jugs to and fro, until on our last day our water tanks were full.

Rick arrives in Bump Head Here is some Bump Head trivia: When we both ride in, Rick drives (you know men love to drive) and I sit in front and help to manually guide us in to an available spot, maneuvering other dinghies aside and then putting a line on the cleat. When Bump Head and I are by ourselves we cruise to the dock and aim for a likely spot, I estimate a prudent but no-nonsense speed, at the precise moment flick the motor into neutral then leap across the seat to the bow and maneuver us in. It's very exciting what with the outboard controls and split-second timing and all.

One afternoon my plans for full-force laundry duty were foiled by an area-wide power outage. I had to retreat, then come back the next day. It is pretty exciting single-handing Bump Head when his floor is covered with laundry bags. But we did just fine. Twice.

Thursday evening we were honored to accompany our friend Beverly and her husband Ray to Sanibel Island. We joined a quite large group of folks who shared common problems and common solutions, and the highlight of the evening for us was the celebration of Beverly's lifetime achievement to-date and Rick was thrilled for her and I was moved to tears. Afterwards we enjoyed pot luck and too much of the associated dessert trough. It was a wonderful time. I have no photos to prove that, either, because when a camera is produced at such an event suddenly everyone is in the witness protection program. So we'll just keep our memories of the evening intact.

Instead I'll fill in with a gratuitous shot of Goldie shredding the upholstery in her endearing way.

Goldie shreds the settee, awww We'll see Ray and Beverly again - if not on our northward return then next year - because Ft. Myers Beach is now a designated friendship stop on our cruising itinerary.

Finally, we know Gary and Mickey were very sad to see their kids and grandkids depart on Friday night. Rick and I did our best to ease the transition by joining them for pizza at The Dockside. There was also karaoke going on, and as we visited and consumed our pizza the practiced singers gradually gave way to the more, shall we way, creative singers as the evening wore on. Gary said that with a few more beers he would not only participate in karaoke but would consider competing in the wet tee-shirt contest later on. Unfortunately we all turned into pumpkins and headed home before that intriguing possibility came to pass. It was fun.

Continuing South

On Saturday, March 1 - in between cold fronts and their associated blustery windy weather - we slipped the mooring line off our bow and headed south into San Carlos Bay and thence to the Gulf. We have some ideas in mind for new anchorages to try, and there is a State Park in the Keys where Rick is longing to break out the snorkel gear. So that is coming up.

And of course except for the stiff neck we are fine. We seem to have successfully evaded the flu epidemic of Ft. Myers and we are grateful for that enormous blessing. We both got a lot of work done and plan to keep the pace.

Hi Uncle Jim Goldie is more than fine, she's purrfect. Jim H. requested more pictures of her. It's possible he was teasing, but I simply cannot take that chance. So here is an extra helping of Goldie:

She was rambling around the deck on the calm morning at Glover Bight while we were having breakfast, and I called to her as usual, asking her to check in every now and then. On this morning it so happened that she was perched atop the closed aft hatch. When I called she hummed in response and then, rather than get up and come around the long way, she just flopped her head over the edge. "Whaddayawant?"

That ought to hold you.

We hope you all are keeping warm and dry, and keeping all four tires/ four paws/ two feet securely on the road. Thanks for listening.

Pat, Rick and Goldie

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