Everything Except the Ice Berg

Travelogue - January 24, 2009
If there is magic on this planet
it is contained in the water.

- Loren Eisley

Sunday, January 4 we departed la Marina for the wide blue yonder. Farewell, farewell!

Fishing near the channel At the channel entrance where the canals meet Charlotte Harbor we spotted this gentleman, left and below. He looked like he was waiting to cross a street. Have I mentioned that the waters near shore are shallow? This fellow stood knee-deep within casting distance of our route, casually mouthing a cigar.

One is inspired to keep one's boat within the dredged channel, as one would regret driving over any pedestrians.

Fisherman-slash-Pedestrian A couple hours later we slipped in to Burnt Store Marina for fuel and a holding tank pumpout. The marina has the diesel fuel pumps and the septic pumpout facilities on opposite ends of their long dock. We planned to attend to one task at a time then warp Sea Gator back to the other station, but here came a sailboat behind us.

The dockhand confided "Those guys are chartering that sailboat. Let's not ask them to do any fancy maneuvers." Instead, he asked Rick to do the fancy maneuvers. So Rick fired up the engine and did a slow circle around the turning basin while they hauled the sailboat ahead, then he nestled Sea Gator right up to the dock again. Nicely done.

When thanked, Rick replied "No problem. It's two docking practices for the price of one." Yay!

Full Moon at Cayo Costa

Moonrise We arrived at Pelican Bay just as the sun was setting directly ahead. Fortunately we could follow last year's track on the hand-held GPS to avoid the shoals on either side, since we couldn't see much against the glare. We found a nice deep spot and anchored between another trawler and a large sailboat. There was plenty of room, so we put out lots of rode against the forecast cold front.

It was a beautiful evening, and a beautiful sunset. And a beautiful full-moon night.

Monday was a beautiful day. We Worked all morning then headed to shore for a quick afternoon speedwalk through the woods - see Rick below perched on driftwood overlooking Charlotte Harbor. Rick's sister Louise is my long-distance coach, and we adhered to her training regimen. Our hike was a perfect 3.3 miles.

Mutha Board

Tuesday morning we were at our computer table at 8:00 a.m. Unfortunately, Rick's computer did not even start! He attempted many different power supply configurations but nothing worked. A call to DELL confirmed his worst fears: the motherboard was shorted out. And he had an on-line demo scheduled for 10:00 a.m.

Rick atop driftwood What to do, what to do? First, refer to it as "that muthaboard". Then reschedule the demo for Friday. DELL offered to send a technician out (ha ha! Yeah, go ahead).

We needed to make a quick decision, and we needed to MOVE within the next half-hour to beat the incoming front. The path of least resistance was to return to Punta Gorda and la Marina. Rick ordered his new muthaboard be sent there.

We phoned Lu in advance and told her we forgot some socks in the dryer. Ha!

The front was picking up steam and on the trip eastbound we had beam seas which made for a rolly ride; then we turned north and the autopilot had its usual difficulties keeping us on course with following seas. We corkscrewed around quite a bit, but were fine.

Others were not doing so well, according to what we heard on the VHF radio. The Coast Guard had a long exchange with someone lost in the fog; finally the Guard asked "Do you know your longitude and latitude?" Answer, no. "Are you in the Gulf of Mexico?" Answer, yes. "Do you have a compass?" Answer, yes. "Well, we suggest you head east and you'll find land." Hmmm...

Another distress call came from a charter boat aground, which had to be uncomfortable with the waves building. The charter company sent someone out to assist. A bit later a Coast Guard issued a "Securité" notifying mariners of a boat taking on water, but the last known location was quite a bit further north than we were so we could not assist.

Rick did a fine job piloting us through the shoals with, again, beam seas, and eventually we pulled in to la Marina. We snugged up to the family dock a mere 48 hours after our much-heralded and dramatic departure. Oh well.

Good News

Dancercise moves Good news: Sea Gator and all her parts performed extremely well, no worries.

More good news: The new muthaboard arrived the very next day and Rick spent all afternoon and evening dismantling his laptop then rebuilding it with the new component. It worked without a hitch. Whew!

Even more good news, and my personal favorite: Jazzercise is now in Punta Gorda! So I rode my bike to class one morning. I did not know any routines as they are all new so I bumbled around with a huge smile on my face. I'm SO happy!!

And even MORE good news, and Rick's personal favorite: The University of Florida's fighting GATORS won the NCAA college football's Bowl Championship Series. Go GATORS!

Cayo Costa AGAIN

Sunset over Cayo Costa OK, where were we?

Saturday, January 10 we departed la Marina for the wide blue yonder. Farewell, farewell and so on.

Again, we arrived at Pelican Bay just as the sun was setting directly ahead. We found a nice deep spot and anchored. There was plenty of room, so we put out even more rode against the next forecast cold front.

We Worked in the mornings then headed to shore for afternoon speedwalks through the woods and on the beach. Still following Louise' training regimen!


Everyone else bolted before the front arrived. So the good news is we and one small sailboat had all the "swing" room we needed in the entire Bay. Our anchor Peter the Rock held, and we had Rick's Anchor Alarm to prove it.

But it was uncomfortable. Sea Gator spun and thrashed, reared and bucked. Rick didn't mind, his worst moments were dealing with me. Why are we here, I demanded, when we could all three be cuddled by a nice fireplace watching it snow outside?

Rick and Goldie unperturbed Left, see my shipmates undisturbed by the weather. While they relaxed I was ambushed by a bout of vertigo which exposed me to mal de mer and that was the end of my day. No, I didn't throw up.

But Goldie did, poor thing (although not on Rick's lap). No kidding, she is the barfing-est cat we've ever lived with. Any little disturbance and thar she blows... She is very spontaneous and her target range is unpredictable and ultimately inconvenient for everyone else. So try cleaning up cat vomit on a rocking boat when your stomach is already queasy. Yeesh.

Enough of that. By noon the next day we decided to head for shelter in the mangrove-lined cove which balloons out from the east side of the Bay. We hadn't taken Sea Gator in there before and its entrance is shoal, so we did a quick recon in Bump Head following Gallivant's waypoints on the hand-held GPS. It looked good. While were there we chugged over to visit with the only other boat around, the Suzanne (a fellow Marine Trader trawler, imagine!). We apologized for the impending imposition on their solitude, and they assured us they didn't mind. So we returned to Sea Gator, weighed anchor and idled on over, just behind the incoming catamaran Cat Trina.

With periodic encouragement radioed to us by Suzanne we tucked right in to the northmost corner and there we found protection from the accumulated waves off Charlotte Harbor and Pelican Bay. The winds blasted us across the tops of the mangroves, but we were good.

FYI, Latitude 26o 41.176 N Longitude 082o 14.237 W. We anchored in 7' at mid-tide. THANKS Don and Pam and Gallivant!

Cayo Costa

On the beach We hunkered down for a day or two. When the winds subsided periodically we dinghied in to shore for a quick hustle around the island - we found a circuitous route to avoid the 'gator lake and its inlet so we made it toward the southern end of the island, right - then we hurried back to the boat. We don't like to leave her unattended when conditions are tumultuous. Rick's trusty anchor alarm allowed us to get some rest with assurance that if the wind dragged our boat we'd wake up.

Which is better than being waked by slamming into Suzanne, innocently bucking and bobbing on her anchor chain downwind of us.

We visited with Sue and John of Suzanne several evenings, exchanging hospitalities on each other's boat. Sue, a retired elementary school art teacher (!) was patient with me about my feeble attempts at watercolors, and now I am inspired to dedicate myself anew.

After three days we assured them that we DO own other clothes than the same jeans and fleece jackets they'd seen us wearing every single day.

And then the winds died down for a day and all three boats hauled anchor and hit the trail. Or, hit the ICW, southbound through Pine Island Sound. Then Suzanne headed upriver, Kat Trina sought the Keys, and Sea Gator headed into Estero Bay where, god willing, our mail would be waiting.

Estero Bay at Fort Myers Beach

On Saturday the 18th, we arrived at the mooring field and tied to Mooring #14 with no problems. Except I forgot to wear gloves and the tether was covered with green slime and sharp cutting barnacles so I had quite a challenge. But all is well.

Each year they improve their act here. Now they provide two nice shower rooms plus a dedicated cruisers' laundry/lounge/book exchange. My only concern is that they do not monitor the VHF radio. What are arriving boaters supposed to do? We use our cell phone and dial the harbormaster at the Matanzas Inn (239-463-9258) when we enter the Bay.

One minor concern is something that I don't believe the management can do much about, and that is the location of the dinghy docks. They are nice new floating docks, but are at the mercy of wind and current.

On Tuesday I Bump Headed in so I could go to the post office and then attend a Meeting. It was a very rough and cold ride. I motored around the corner and eyed the dinghy dock with alarm - the tied boats thrashed and crashed in the waves. It looked like the inside of a washing machine and I knew it would tax my skills to single-hand Bump Head in with no damage or dunking. I admit I took us back around the corner to the nearby canal and tied in a nice quiet, illegal spot for a couple hours.

"Sub-tropics my a**."

Several items have vastly improved our quality of life aboard: First and foremost is the reverse-cycle air conditioning unit which Rick fixed and tweaked so now it provides heat with only minor coaxing. We've never used it for air conditioning, hard to think about that right now.

Insulation Next is our insulated door covering, right, to which I sewed velcro loop-tape all around the edges. The velcro sticks to the hook-tape on the wall (which on warm days secures no-see-um netting at the same location). It puffs and balloons when a cold wind blows, protecting us from the arctic breezes whistling unimpeded through our sliding helm door. Last year we just tacked blankets up in front of the door, which was unsightly plus deprived us the use of the last crucial blanket.

I also improved our no-see-um netting for the main hatch by sewing a nylon "lid" so now the hatch can be completely open and we're still protected from flying pests. But we haven't had to use that since we left la Marina. I think all the bugs are frosted.

Meanwhile, the weather continued to be uppity. Winds were 20+ and the temperature plummeted. Wednesday's high was 53. Thursday morning, January 22, it was 39 outside, 49 INSIDE the boat! Rick could see his breath. Goldie and I missed that show: we huddled in bed with every blanket we own and we emerged only after Rick had cranked the generator and turned on the heater and made us all coffee.

Plus it was kind of boring. Our friend Bev was out of commission with the crud, so I had no one to play with. Goldie amused herself by craftily violating one of the few remaining rules and insinuating herself onto Rick's chair, below right. Now it is her favorite perch.

In the wee dark hours of Thursday morning the wind died down. This harbor is known for its definitive tidal currents, and when the currents conflict with the wind everybody bobs around every which way. You can lie beam-to the chop or drift close to your neighbor. Or, as happened early in the dark of Thursday morning, you can run over your own mooring ball. It makes an enormous racket crashing against the hull. That briefly brought us out in a swarm - I was certain we'd hit an iceberg.

Thursday afternoon, in our flannel shirts and sweaters and fleece vests and hats and gloves, we dinghied in to fetch water in six-gallon jerry cans to top off our 150-gallon tank, and we went in later for dinner - we enjoyed the Lowcountry Shrimp Boil at the Smokin' Oyster Brewery. It was delicious and just spicy enough to warm us up for the dinghy ride home.


Goldie pushing the envelope Friday morning, January 23rd, dawned clear, cold and calm. We prepped Sea Gator, donned our warm clothing, and cast off from our mooring ball at 8:30 a.m.

We intend to tool upstream and explore the mid-ranges of the Caloosahatchee River. This will be new terrain and we are very excited. Stay tuned!

Stay warm!

Stay safe, with all four tires / two feet / four paws on the ground. And thanks for listening.

Pat, Rick and Goldie

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