Home / Travelogue Index / Fifth Season / March 27, 2010

Celebrating Ancient Civilizations and Modern Birthdays

Travelogue - March 27, 2010
From now on,
it's all clear profit,
every sky.

- Kobayashi Issa, 1813

Sauntering Through the State of Dreams

We decided amongst ourselves that we won't cruise further south this season, not even for a brief sentimental return to Panther Key, Chokoloskee, The Ten Thousand Islands or the Everglades. But YOU can.

Check out "Searching for Mr. Watson: An Exercise in Florida History & Redemption" posted December 22, 2009 on Florida Nature.

The essay describes the author's canoe trip into the backcountry, featuring the frontier homesite of Mr. Watson - legendary bad ass and dead man courtesy of the collective citizens of Chokoloskee in 1910. If you are interested in further study, Peter Matthiessen has written a series about the affair and that lonesome backriver country: "Killing Mister Watson", "Lost Man's River", "Bone by Bone", "Shadow Country".

Backtrack to the Shrimp Parade

Now I'm all confused. The Shrimp Parade happened back on March 13, and would you believe it? What with the fieldtrip to the Koreshan settlement and whatnot I forgot all about it. Imagine that.

Shrimp Parade float Well, briefly: we had a nice day. Rick and I, and Gary and Mickey from Little Mick, Connie and Marty from Bullship, and Sharon and Ron from their sailboat, all walked down to The Pancake House for breakfast. Yay! It's the only place I've found where you can get pancakes with your eggs without having to order another entire meal. Yes, this is important.

From there we stepped out onto the street and watched the Shrimp Parade get under way.

Rick was skeptical. "Won't it be an awfully slow parade?" He was assured that the parade was merely ABOUT shrimps, not consisting OF shrimps. But after the inevitable image popped into my head - exasperated parade organizers prodding reluctant shrimp down San Carlos Boulevard - the real parade wasn't quite as much fun.

But here it came anyway. There were marching boy scouts, red hat ladies, "snow birds" from the RV park, politicians, antique cars, shriners in little hats and little cars, high school bands, and grade school cloggers. No references to shrimp that I could see. But lots of enthusiasm.

Fair warning T-shirt The float featuring Cincinnati's Fire and Rescue, above left, received great applause. Apparently those guys come to the Beach each year and do a fund-raising song and pole-dance routine on the beach. We missed it again this year - Gary and Rick were not as dismayed at this oversight as were Mickey and I. My goodness gracious.

Finally, the guy standing next to us was a vacationing cop. Here is his t-shirt. I thought that was a pretty fair warning.

After the last float drifted past, everyone else followed the parade up the road to the festival near Bowditch Park. Rick and I turned the other way and walked down the island to errands at the CVS drugstore. As we walked south, we passed a north-bound traffic jam backed up for miles and miles, inching along at the speed of the slowest elementary school clogger. The drivers all looked frustrated and confused. Finally one woman rolled her window down and asked us, "What, is it, like, a parade or something?!" We said, "Well, yes, it IS a parade."

After our errands and lunch we hiked the beach back home. Nine miles round trip - it was a good day overall.

Mound Key

Mound Key is another Florida State Park. It is accessible only by boat, and is located in the backwaters of this huge Bay nine miles southeast of the mooring field, and six miles or so down the Estero River from the Koreshan State Historic Site. Whereas the Koreshan park was a long drive around by car, the Mound Key would be a straightforward dinghy ride. Easy peasy, never mind the weather forecast, heidi-ho!

Gary and Mickey fix their outboard

Framed in forests of mangrove trees, the shell mounds and ridges of Mound Key rise more than 30 feet above the waters of Estero Bay.

Prehistoric Native Americans are credited with creating this island's complex of mounds with an accumulation of seashells, fish bones, and pottery. Mound Key is believed to have been the ceremonial center of the Calusa Indians when the Spaniards first attempted to colonize Southwest Florida. In 1566, the Spanish governor of Florida established a settlement on the island with a fort and the first Jesuit mission in the Spanish New World. The settlement was abandoned three years later after violent clashes with the Indians.

On Sunday morning, March 21, Gary and Mickey fetched us in their hard-sided large dinghy. First we stopped in at the "boater's fleamarket" at Barnacle Bill's, then we hit the trail. We had all brought lunch and water and fortunately, some of us brought rain gear.

It wasn't "raining" in the back of the dinghy where Gary and Mickey were: only in the front, where Rick and I were doused by the splash from the bow. It was a tad bouncy out in the Bay and there was a lot of water moving in front of another weather system. But our rain gear was effective. We shielded our friends as best we could!

Gary, Mickey, Rick enjoy an interpretive sign After multiple stops - there's nothing quite as exciting as the sound of an engine sputtering into silence when you are out in the middle of the Bay in a small boat and a front is moving in - Gary and Mickey realized that their fuel pump was the culprit. Ah-ha! Here they are, above left, solving the mystery.

All the mangrove islands look pretty much the same from the water. Of four experienced boaters, not one of us thought to bring a nautical chart of the area. Heidi-ho! But at last we arrived at what we thought must be the correct Key, relying on the GPS coordinates printed on the otherwise vague "Lee County Paddling Trail" brochure: fortunately, Rick did bring his hand-held GPS.

We circumnavigated the island, trying to find a break in the woven wall of mangrove roots and branches that would allow a safe landing on the lee side. Out on the choppy windward side we did eventually spot a designated landing, which on this day was completely exposed to the incoming waves. No thanks, we'd never be able to launch again! Another quarter mile beam-to the incoming seas and we came back around the sheltered side of the island.

We finally pulled over on a shell bar for a quick rest stop. For modesty's sake I blundered quite far through the woods, and when I was at last alone and completely compromised along came a pontoon boat! Despite my bright pink sun shirt they didn't see me among the mangroves, or mistook me for a roosting Roseate Spoonbill (Platalea ajaja as you may recall).

Well, Gary fired up the outboard and we followed the path of the pontoons to a very nicely sheltered sandy-beach landing. We followed the Park's shell paths through the woods to some interesting interpretive signs:

Mickey at Agave

The Calusa were undoubtedly descendants of the first people to live in Florida. The archaeological record suggests that the first people arrived in Florida at the end of the ice age about 12,000 years ago... Followed by a period (6,000 years) of nomadic hunting and gathering before evidence of settled communities begins to show up... The succeeding period spans 6,000 years during which time the Calusa and other of the first complex cultures in North American were formed.

By the time the Spanish arrived on the southwest coast of Florida in the early to middle 1500s, the Calusa society, religion, and government had been in place for about 2,000 years.

No wonder the Spaniards' brisk missionary work didn't go over so well.

The trail took us up and up and UP the first mound, into the very treetops lashing in the wind. Then we trundled down and down. And then up and up and UP the next mound. We stood atop at least three very large mounds, each representing unimaginably vast periods of time in which succeeding generations of people lived and died and worked and played and tossed their leftovers over their shoulders on the ever-expanding island. We felt connected.

Accounts written by early European explorers give us only glimpses of Calusa society... For the most part, answers to questions about who the Calusa were and how they managed to live in harmony with their environment for 2,000 years must come to us from archaeology.

Here, Mickey communes very carefully with a violently spiny Century Plant (Agave) in bloom. The needles on the tips of each bayonet-leaf were used for sewing by the Calusa. Mickey confirmed that that was entirely possible.

The dinghy ride home was easier as now we were going WITH the wind and waves; although unfortunately Mickey was pretty soaked before too long. "Refreshing!", she cried bravely. Gary detoured into the TOPPS canal and we made a quick foray to the grocery store for provisions, then hurried home. Rick and I brought all our groceries and supplies on board and closed the door behind us - two boats down the door shut safely behind Gary and Mickey on Little Mick - and then the skies let loose. It rained the rest of the day. An excellent field trip, finished with excellent timing.

Thanks, Gary and Mickey, for piloting another excellent adventure!

Rick Celebrates the Big Five-O!

It's all about Rick!

Rick, Don, Will On Thursday we dinghied over to The Big Game bar and grill at Salty Sam's Marina, to rendezvous with Pam and Don and Will. They made the drive down from Ft. Myers Yacht Basin in record time. Pam and I talked about her grandchildren and GALLIVANT's upcoming journey up the east coast for the summer. Rick and Don and Will talked about engines and water pipes and scientific computing. Here are the guys, posing with their new friend.

Lu, Rick, Theresa Friday, the Big Day! It dawned murky and grey and dribbling body-temperature rain all over everyone. But by mid-morning the sky was beginning to clear, and Rick had received phone calls and emails from his older brothers who were happy to welcome him with taunts and jeers into his next decade.

Laughing, we headed to shore, then hopped the trolley off-island. We arrived at the Sunflower Cafe just as the sun emerged and in plenty of time to greet Lu (Rick's mom) and Theresa (her cousin). It was a very nice reunion, and Rick and I were especially grateful to see that Lu looks and sounds healthy and happy after her scares this winter.

Rick chose the Sunflower Cafe because we could tell it was a friendly neighborhood place where the waitresses call everybody "hon" and they let you sit over your coffee for hours, which we did. We had a nice lunch with the ladies, and we discussed and confirmed everybody's spring travel schedules.

Rick, Pat, Mickey, Gary After a very nice and relaxed lunch we bid farewell to the ladies and they began their return journey. Rick and I made a quick stroll through the Winn-Dixie for groceries then rode the trolley back to the Island. We were very glad to be in the "fast" trolley lane, because as usual car traffic was backed up for miles.

Back home, Rick was waylaid with emails and phone calls, but soon we piled ourselves back in Bump Head, hurried to the shore and were soon gathering around a corner table at the Yucatan Beach Stand with Gary and Mickey. We told them about our celebrations so far, and they shared their excitement that their daughter and her family were on their way for a visit at that very moment!

My parents generously sponsored our beverages and desserts - the birthday boy had Key Lime Pie, thanks Carl and Millie! - and we all had an excellent dinner. Afterward, to work off some of the pies, we went for a moonlight stroll on the beach and it was fun to see the place so very quiet and still - all the spring breakers were either in their hotels preparing for the next adventure or already unconscious from the previous adventure.

Thanks, friends and family, for helping make Rick's landmark birthday such an enjoyable day!

Cruiser Appreciation Day

We cruisers experience appreciation, surely. But this day someone appreciated US!

The Town of Ft. Myers Beach and the Matanzas Inn sponsored a fun celebration: at noon the dinghy dock was jam-packed as cruisers and sailors from the moorings gathered to enjoy burgers, dogs, beer and music. And fun conversation.

Cruiser's Appreciation Day Here are about 1/3 of the tables and revelers. Gary and Rick are seated on the left.

We found ourselves seated beside a friendly town councilman. He said, "Tell me if there is anything we can do to make your stay more pleasant." So Rick did, starting with a request for a water station and more thorough maintenance on the mooring equipment. Other cruisers seconded those comments, and added requests for Wi-Fi access and recycling.

It was nice to say "hello" to folks we haven't seen for awhile (hi, Pam and Frank!) and meet new people.

On that note, I spotted a seemingly familiar face. And so we met Ellen and her husband Roy of Our Turn. Ellen is a fellow contributor to the upcoming Women On Board cruising essay collection. She shared tales of their recently-completed Great Loop tour and Rick and I will share tips and suggestions for their upcoming summer visit to the wild west. Such a small world!


Goldie had a rough week; she spent an inordinate amount of time tucked away in the nest she'd appropriated, on a pile of cushions near the ceiling of the forward stateroom. I plied her with treats and rubs and brushings and coo-ings. Lately she has been returning to herself, jumping on me in the morning and being more energetic and playful. Whew!!

So, on a sunny day, here is Goldie strolling the side decks WAAY down there while we're having lunch above on the first day that was warm enough to allow us to eat outside! Two days in a row, that was!

Those days are just a memory now, but it is slowly inching into spring.

It's still not hot enough to sauté a parade of shrimp on the asphalt pavements of San Carlos Boulevard, although I'm tempted to try. I just want to see what would happen. "Git along there", poke. Poke, poke, poke.

Rick has been bravely wearing shorts, and one night we left three portlights and a hatch open, and now we're down to just three blankets and a bedspread. What a relief.

Today, while Goldie snoozes, Rick is caulking the hatches in advance of the next predicted thunderstorm. I decided to get us organized and of all the tasks available to me I chose to alphabetize our stockpile of protein bars: Atkins, Balance, Fiber One, Luna, Special K, Zone Perfect... Rick will be able to find whatever he wants, so long as he can remember how to spell it.

We hope you are safe and warm. Watch out for drivers finishing up their cocktails or talking on their cellphones, and keep all four tires, four paws, and two feet firmly on the ground.

Thanks for listening.

Pat, Rick and Goldie

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