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All Ashore

Travelogue - February 18, 2010
...A lengthy deep freeze aided by northeast winds
plunged both fresh and saltwater temperatures to lows
that most subtropical fish species cannot survive.
Over the weekend and this week the water graves bulging
with thousands of dead fish topped the news...
"Prolonged cold weather freezes Florida fish"
- Paul Bruun OUTDOORS, Jackson Hole News & Guide (January 20, 2010)

High Tide, Low Tide

The prolonged cold weather also froze Florida boaters. We were high and dry, but at least we were also warm and toasty.

Following the record high tides in December, poor Sea Gator again kissed the bottom of her berth in January.

Fish kill Along with record tides came record-breaking temperatures. Florida experienced freezing lows lasting several weeks. Key West's dockmistress wrote to tell me that she had had to send away for long-johns. Many Florida homes, in the Keys for example, do not have a source of indoor heat! This seems shocking until one realizes that many homes in the mountains (for example, ours) do not have air conditioning.

Water temperatures in Florida Bay and north to Tampa fell to the low 40s. Even the canals that had previously been a source of refuge for aquatic creatures hit record lows. The canals behind la Marina teemed with dazed fish circling just beneath the surface. We thought they had survived and were rejoicing their good fortune, but what we witnessed was the finale of their death throes. Everyone was belly-up within a few days.

We are concerned on behalf of the citrus and produce growers, and those who make their living fishing as well.

Horsemen

The Seven Dwarves of the Apocalypse Apropos of nothing except a glaring shortage of 'logue material (and the ominous undertone of many of our experiences this past month) I present for your enjoyment last autumn's time-killing art project. It is, of course, the Seven Dwarves of the Apocalypse.

Look on my works, y'all, and despair.

Man Cold

Meanwhile, the cold brought colds. Lu fought hers during her New Year's travels, and then Rick battled the same symptoms for the next 10 days. He didn't slow down much, though, but kept working on the boat (still struggling for a resolution to our autopilot problem) and Working for his clients. So this is not about him, but it gave me a good laugh: Check out The Man Cold on You Tube.

I SO did not want to get sick. I resisted it as best I could.

Embarking

Tides remained low every morning and into the afternoon. But, finally, All FOUR of us were relatively healthy: Lu had come to terms with her menu choices; Goldie was symptom-free; Rick's cold was easing up; and I was just fine, just fine. Let's head out!

Rick and Goldie at the helm We bought and stowed provisions to last a month, loaded our enormous collection of necessities aboard and, at 3:00 in the afternoon of January 13 we bid farewell to Lu and cast off from la Marina.

We didn't intend to go far that day: out into Charlotte Harbor and the protection of the north-eastern shore we set anchor and were settled in by dusk. Unfortunately, the weather predictions couldn't have been more wrong so we were buffeted by winds from the north-west for most of the night. But toward morning the wind clocked around and the cold settled in. We woke to calm seas and a bitter sore throat for me.

C'est la vie.

We toodled along to Burnt Store for a pump out and 120 gallons of diesel fuel. We made a big deal of waving to the dockhands, "See you in a few months!", "Bye!", "Safe travels!", "Bye!", and then we motored across the Harbour. Goldie was so glad to be in the warm sunshine that she emerged from her berth to enjoy the view from my chair, above left. We set anchor in the protected eastern pocket at Pelican Bay.

Pelican Bay sunset It was a beautiful, warm, calm evening. Goldie hustled outside and stretched full-length on the bow. The sunset was stunning and Rick spent a long time on deck exploring it.

We made plans to visit with friends from home: Shirley and Dan T. would take the island shuttle from Captiva up to Cayo Costa on the weekend and we would fete them aboard Sea Gator. This was an excellent plan!

But what have we learned about plans?

'The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men gang aft agley' - Robert Burns

Yes, that's it.

By sunup the next morning our voice mail boxes bulged with Fee's increasingly urgent calls: Lu had been rescued by strangers at her BINGO parlor and taken to hospital the night before. We swiftly battened down the hatches, summoned Goldie to her safety harness at the upper PFD locker, and fired up Sea Gator's engine. We waved adieu to friendly neighbors we hadn't yet met and slipped out of the Bay over skinny water.

Rick piloted Sea Gator at her best speed and we could only pretend patience. What a strange, still day on the water. Although the breeze was brisk it felt eerily still as though the Harbor held its breath. We slid in silence between rafts of silvery dead fish and a close lead-dull sky.

We arrived back at la Marina in record time and berthed Sea Gator upon the pilings we had left less than 48 hours before - and for the first time, absolutely flawlessly. God bless him, Fee had retrieved Lu's purse and car and meticulously locked the house. We let ourselves in with my keys and then raced to the hospital -

- The good news is, Lu was holding her own in the ICU. She would return home after four grueling days of inconclusive tests. In the meantime, we awaited more tests and hopefully some useful news.

Friendly faces from home

We were lurking around the hospital on the day that Shirley and Dan T. made their way by ferry from Captiva north through Pine Island Sound to the smaller islands. Wisely, considering an approaching thunderstorm, they only went as far as Cabbage Key, where they reported enjoying a lovely lunch.

Shirley and Dan T. and Rick The next day, Sunday, Lu was stable and comfortable, so early in the morning Rick and I drove down to Ft. Myers and thence west by northwest to Sanibel Island and onward to Captiva. There, bright and surprisingly early, we met Shirley and Dan for breakfast at their lodging, the 'Tween Waters Inn.

It was fun to see 'Tween Waters from the land, since we had anchored several times in Roosevelt Channel out beyond the Inn. Here are Shirley, Dan and Rick out at the docks. There is one anchored boat behind Rick. We had typically motored further up the channel, off-camera to the right, where it's more protected from Pine Island Sound, which you can see in the background.

And it was really great to see friendly faces from home. A visit with Dan and Shirley grounded us nicely. Soon, they were off to enjoy a ten-day cruise of the Caribbean islands. We wish them bon voyage! We'll see them back out west for some hikes this summer.

The patient Patient

Lu came home, tired but sound. We decided that we would stay on at la Marina for a month or so, so that Rick can attend doctor visits with her and so that we can assure ourselves that all is well. So we battened down the hatches and settled in.

Poor Lu - we took over the second back bedroom for our office, so she has no respite from us whatsoever. She has been amazingly tolerant and cheerful of our lurking and hovering over her.

Life Ashore

We've made good use of our time: Working, working, and shopping.

Goldie's secret identity: Were-Cat Goldie attended her one-month post-treatment checkup at Dr. Erica's. They carried her gently away to draw blood and urine... Was that howling and yowling from offstage really MY sweet Goldie? It was.

Dr. Erica politely requested that I take Goldie home for now, and bring her back when it is no longer a full moon (!), and when she is fully dosed with tranquilizers. My sweet Goldie?

I was secretly proud of her, standing up for her personal boundaries like that. But OK, so the next week I brought her back, and they were able to draw fluids from the little were-wolf. And - good news! - her tests came back on-the-way-to-normal. Yay, Goldie!

We all planned a day sightseeing at Matlacha on Pine Island, but had to put those plans on hold (this was getting to be a pattern) when I, somehow, someway, ripped the dickens out of my ankle. A smaller tendon sproinged like a kite string. Sheesh. However, a fun thing happened during my extended weekend on crutches, when a little garden lizard snuck into the house. He made it all the way across the lanai, through the dining room, and down the hall to the bedroom we've appropriated as an office. I saw him out of the corner of my eye and yelled for Rick to come fetch him.

After that it was like an old-time radio horse opera. I could only listen and laugh as Rick, Lu and Goldie tried to roundup the little guy. Judging from the sounds, I deduced he must have found refuge under the recliner, then under the sofa, then under the Christmas tree before he was finally cornered and roped. Rick returned him to the wild.

My ankle healed as mysteriously as it broke down and I retired the crutches to the garage wall.

Matlacha

Main street Matlacha In 2004, Captain Gary bemoaned that his beloved small-town Matlacha had been "discovered" and tourist-afied. We don't know what it was like before, but now it is a narrow street lined with artsy shops and hazardous with lots of car traffic. Pretty cute.

Rick had given me a strange look when I suggested we spend a day at Matlacha. In fact, if I hadn't paused to shop for earrings, we would have toured the town up one side and down the other in less than 90 minutes.

But we can enjoy ourselves anywhere. We tried a new seafood delicacy: Mullet Sandwich. The lady at the restaurant said she is embarking on a campaign to bring mullet to the masses. We helped her compose catchy advertising diddies:

"Mullet - more than a mudflap, it's a meal" and

"Mullet: it's not just an embarrassing hairdo in your high school yearbook."

She's got an uphill battle ahead of her. But we enjoyed our sandwich and our nice day on Pine Island.

Later...

Farmers Market artist The month crept by. Rick's sister, Louise, came for a long weekend and her presence was a breath of fresh air. Rick installed a new autopilot compass and new depth sounder on Sea Gator and together we solved the mystery of water in the bilge during water-tank filling. All of us slowly regained our various health. Healths. Whatever.

Rick and I rode our bikes to the weekly Farmer's Market in downtown Punta Gorda. It was very much fun - folks burst out from their stuffy homes to enjoy the relative warmth of a sunny day, even though vendors had to grab onto their tents to prevent them blowing away in the gusts. We treated ourselves to a mocha-cream-filled cupcake from Sugar Island Cupcakes woo hoo, and lots of fresh local fruits and vegetables that had successfully weathered the frosts. Here an artist labors on his rendition of a fruit stand. He had obviously begun his masterwork earlier in the day, while the bags of citrus were piled much higher in the truck than they were by 11:00 a.m.

My favorite moment came on a Tuesday evening. Louise's visit had brought us fresh enthusiasm; everyone was on the mend and all was well with the world. And then Rick and Lucille went into the kitchen to cook dinner together. The laughing and chatting between mother and son, and the energetic bustling between stove and sink, all made a joyful noise that filled the house. Goldie and I, safely out from under foot, pretended to read while we listened to the ruckus with smiles on our faces. And - dinner was delicious!

Rick's Aunt Claire flew down from N.H. to care for her sister. Everybody took one look at Aunt Claire and voted to rush her to the emergency room. There she remains, but doing quite well. In a few days she will be discharged into Lu's, and Uncle Arthur and Aunt Roshni's, loving care. They will insist she spend the rest of her vacation recuperating in the lounge chair on the lanai.

Lucille announced herself fit and fully capable. Our work here is finished.

On the Hook...

On the hook is a good thing, it means "at anchor."

Last Sunday, February 14, Lu firmly but politely shoo'ed us out the door. We cruised away yet again, "Bye!", and we came straight into our favorite protected anchorage at Pelican Bay.

Aurora, Stormy, September Song Upon our heels came a lovely huge DeFever, to settle in and anchor behind us. Then another, and another, and another... We watched the big boats settle in, and we decided they were traveling west after attending the annual DeFever Rendezvous on Florida's east coast.

We admired the "snubber" on the anchor chain of the last one as they set their anchor near us. Rick commented "Steve has one like that..." and suddenly the man on the bow waved and he became our friend Steve! And the woman at the helm waved and she was suddenly Diane! YAY!

It was nice to see Aurora again in person - we've been waving and radio'ing and emailing since we met them on our first cruise five years ago, and it was good to be able to visit face-to-face. Later, we joined them and their friends aboard September Song for a delightful evening of "heavy" appetizers and beverages. The next day the rendezvous caravanned along northward.

We settled down to work, to hike the island for at least an hour every day YAY! and to slowly graze through our provisions. We decided, we'll leave when the fresh produce runs out and not a minute before.

... and Still Afloat

We're good. Lu is good. Aunt Claire is on the mend. And all is well with the world.

We hope you are safe and warm. Watch our for that ice and keep all four tires, four paws, and two feet (Louise, this means you) firmly on the ground.

Thanks for listening.

Pat, Rick and Goldie

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