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Calms and Storms

Travelogue - April 12, 2010
Fierce is the wind tonight,
It plows up the white hair of the sea.
I have no fear that the Viking hosts
Will come over the water to me.

- 8th or 9th century, a marginal poem on the St. Gall Ms., translated by F. N. Robinson

The Mooring Field

Rick lunching on the flybridge We haven't dwelled on it, because it hasn't changed.

FYI. Here is Rick having lunch in the sunshine at the upper helm station. That big blue shape is the captain's chair, all covered and protected. The sailboat growing out of his head on the left is Bullship. The shiny white trawler to the right is Little Mick and her new red-painted stripes.

The sandwich in Rick's hand is roasted turkey lunchmeat and lettuce on whole wheat. Now you know as much as I do.

Shoreside. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday mornings Rick dinghies me to the bay-side ramp at the end of Mirimar Street. No one has accosted me lately, so it's a good place for a drop-off, even in the rain. From there I walk a half-mile or so to the Chapel-by-the-Sea, or to the Bayside Recreation Center for morning aerobics, yay! This morning the aerobics class finished off the floor routines by caravanning down the road to breakfast at The Island Pancake House. I had French toast with strawberries, and it was a workout but I finished all my reps.

Kayaks on the Estero River

For the last four years, Beverly and I have promised each other we would go kayaking. On Tuesday, March 30, we did it!

Beverly bravely drove us from the island to her house, where we piled four persons and two kayaks into her neighbor Terry's truck and off we went: to the Estero River Outfitters on the very banks of the (who would have guessed?) lovely Estero River.

Terry and Bev on the Estero River Several weeks ago, upon our visit to the Koreshan Unity Settlement, we stood on the banks watching kayakers and canoers paddling lazily past the Settlement's landing. So we were looking forward to exploring the river ourselves.

The Estero River Canoe Trail is officially designated as part of Florida's Statewide System of Greenways and Trails. The trail leads through subtropical hammocks that give way to mangrove swamps as the water becomes more brackish. The trail makes an interesting and easy one-day trip exploring mangrove coves and islands. Wildlife is abundant, including yellow-crowned night heron, anhinga and cormorant. You can also look for mangrove cuckoo and black-whiskered vireo.

When the trail opens into Estero shoals, choose your own route through the mangrove islands. Stop over at Mound Key Archaeological State Park for a picnic lunch or a short walk on the nature trails.

Rick and I rented a double kayak in order to (a) save money and (b) allow me to laze around and take pictures and point out the sights while Rick paddled.

Terry lead the way and he valiantly controlled his dread of arboreal snakes as we worked our way far upstream. We were soon passing beneath trees hung with moss and vines and epiphytes, left, and gradually the banks became higher and closer.

We came at last to a place where the overhanging trees wove a canopy overhead and the lush banks whispered and shimmered in the dappled sunlight reflected off the water. Terry spun athwart the stream and his kayak nearly touched the banks on both sides. This was farther than he'd gone before and he was satisfied that it was quite far enough.

Fashion Choice We slid to a stop and sat, hushed, entranced. It was a magical place.

Finally, we turned and slid back downriver.

We paddled on past the landing, now heading downriver into new territory. We soon passed the Koreshan landing and its associated Park facilities - picnic area, campground, boat launch. We continued downriver past some modest neighborhoods and one exclusive development of oversized homes. The river widened and the headwind freshened - we were getting closer to the Bay. When we turned back, Terry assured us we'd gone about one-third the way to the Bay.

Back at the put-in we cleaned up a bit, then drove back to fetch Ray and the five of us had a fine dinner at Pastabilities, which was nicer than it sounds. Thanks, Beverly and Terry for a memorable day!

At the Beach and on the Bay

See the beach wear preferred by college fellows, right. Fashion Do or wardrobe malfunction? You decide.

It had become warm and for the next several days it was calm on the water, and quite beautiful. Here, Sea Gator relaxes on her mooring in the late afternoon. She was lovely to look at as we returned home after a quick jaunt ashore for happy hour snacks and a hot shower at the marina.

Sea Gator aglow One day, a man hailed Rick from a passing dinghy. "Where did you get your boat painted?" Rick assured him this was the original finish, and the man complimented Rick for keeping Sea Gator looking so nice. It is well-deserved praise, Rick does a great job as you can see.

Sand castle engineers On the next sunny Saturday we hustled to the beach and then immediately hid our white bodies in the shade. But it was great fun to watch the Gulf and the boats coming through the channel. And the beach activity was going full-force. Here are some sand engineers hard at work, right. From watching them and others we learned a lot about constructing supportive bases for your castle towers.

On another day as Rick worked outside, the man on the bow of a passing boat called "Hey Rick! It's Bob!" Bob waved and then Rick waved. And so Bob and Rick finally met in person.

The two have been corresponding for several years about Rick's Anchor Alarm, of which Bob is a dedicated beta tester. So Rick and I fired up Bump Head and motored over to JustAVacation for a nice visit. The next evening, Bob and Cindy (below) dinghied over here to meet Sea Gator and Goldie, then we all headed over to Doc Ford's Rum Bar and Grille.

Bob and Cindy S. Fans of Randy Wayne White's "Doc Ford" mystery series will - as we four did - recognize the island-house-on-stilts decor of the place. White's plots are staged at mythical and real locations on Sanibel Island, Captiva, and the Pine Island Sound. As the menu says:

Welcome to Doc Ford's on the bay... Just as my novels are inspired by these islands, my days on the water, and the people I came to know, the spirit of this fine sports bar was inspired by the marine biologist who is the main character of those novels.

Doc Ford is the baseball-loving, tropical adventurer who - not so surprisingly - has spent a lot of time in the same far flung places that I wrote about when I was a monthly columnist for Outside Magazine: places such as Cuba, Cambodia, South Africa, Australia, Vietnam, Borneo, and all over South and Central America. It was while traveling for Outside that I came to know and love the superb cuisine of the rural tropics...

We hope that spirit is part of Doc Ford's Sanibel Rum Bar and Grille.

We agreed it was good food, a nice view of the Bay, and fine company.

Wildlife: No-see-ums and the Easter Bunny

It's been warm enough that the no-see-ums are out in force delivering their calling card: large oozing blisters, varying from dime-sized to quarter-sized. I have about ten bucks worth in change on my legs. Whereas Rick couldn't even buy a gumball if he had to (it's a metaphor - keep up, people). The bugs probably can't get to his skin through the hair - we're talking about his legs.

Ron and Sally C. Nevertheless, we were so glad we had decided to stay on here at FMB because, bright and early Easter Sunday morning, we were present to greet Sally and Ron as they wound up their all-night crossing from Key West. We watched anxiously out the windows until we saw Adventure cruise into the harbor, then we hovered around in Bump Head while they piloted Adventure in to a perfect landing on the adjacent mooring ball. They reported that the Easter sunrise seen from the Gulf while under sail was a glorious sight.

While Sally and Ron retired to settle Adventure into her mooring and pursue much-anticipated naps, Rick and I rendezvoused ashore with Gary and Mickey for a pleasant drive up to Lu's house. There we joined Lu and 12 of her dearest friends for a lovely Easter dinner.

Back home again, we fed Goldie, turned on the anchor light and then returned ashore for an evening at Nervous Nellie's with a refreshed Sally and Ron.

Spinal Tap The restaurant's food was tasty, the waiter was great and the outdoor dining patio was very pretty: large enough to be airy and small enough to be intimate.

Live music was provided by three guys playing acoustic guitars and singing, which would have been excellent. Unfortunately the volume was set up for Spinal Tap's gig at Lindberg Air Force Base (it went to eleven).

However, by reading lips we discerned that Sally and Ron had had a good time in Key West. We finally exchanged the hand signals designating an early evening and we caravanned in dinghies to Sea Gator (out here in the middle of the Bay the band's volume sounded just about right). Sally and Ron stopped in long enough to pet a disinterested Goldie and then they headed home, above right. Bye!

Sally would get ready to sleep, Ron would head over to The Big Game bar at Salty Sam's hoping to watch a semi-final game of the Women's Final Four, only to be thwarted by a sports bar that closes at 10:00 on game night. Huh? Poor Ron. Maybe it was just as well, as they were up and underway early the next morning. We will make an effort to see them for a longer visit next year.

Gary, Mickey, Rick, Pat, Connie, Marty Rick is getting a lot of Work done, and still finding time to ferry me ashore so I can go to aerobics in the mornings. Today, after class I caught a ride south on San Carlos Blvd. with a very friendly lady from class. Dee showed me her nice condo complex and its excellent, wide and quiet beach and we enjoyed a brief and friendly visit.

From her place I made a quick walk to CVS for errands, then a longer walk back up the beach to Publix for more errands, then a very quick walk behind the grocery store to the new Bayside Bistro. They have a very wonderful and (obviously) professional-designed water-front terrace. I found a lush chair in the shade and was well entertained by the activities on the marina docks. Finally Rick Bump Headed to meet me, and we enjoyed a nice lunch overlooking the Bay.

Then, it was back to Sea Gator for an afternoon of Work, followed by a quick zip to shore and the upstairs decks of the Matanzas Inn where we joined Gary and Mickey of Little Mick and Marty and Connie of Bullship, above left, for pizza.

All in all, it was a mostly good week.

More Socializing

We were happy that Bob and Cindy of JustAVacation decided to double back toward FMB. They had decided to rendezvous up the river with Gallivant instead of continuing south to the Keys, so we were able to visit again with them.

Dangerous beach sculpture One evening we met them at the Lighthouse Motel's Tiki Bar, then we all trooped down to meet a crew of Little Mick's friends at the Beached Whale.

Unfortunately Cindy and Bob headed home before we came upon the alligator on the beach, right. And before the sunset group shot, below: Gary and Mickey of Little Mick, George and Barbara of Providence, Jerel and Tammie of Osprey, Marty and Connie of Bullship, and Pat and Rick of Sea Gator.

Thunderstorm

Yesterday was Sunday, April 11. Bright and early we went ashore with Gary and Mickey for a farewell breakfast. After breakfast they continued on to church and we went for a beach walk, then home to batten down the hatches. We had barely made it inside and were snug and warm when a thunderstorm plowed through the area.

Gang of sailors Holy smokes! Thunder crashed and lightening flashed. Goldie fled to her fort, tucking herself away as far as she could. The rain pelted down and the wind buffeted Sea Gator on her mooring. We held onto the grab bars when moving around the boat.

Just as things were getting really nasty an American Tug trawler came down the channel and hove to the mooring beside us. My stomach had butterflies just watching them. They did an amazing job under these conditions, piloting the boat directly upon the mooring ball, and nabbing the pennant with their long boat hook. Then both the husband and wife came out to the bow and got soaked while tying their lines to the pennant. They hustled back inside, and the wind blew even harder.

Cindy got some good action photos of the storm, including the tug Jenna Star coming in to her mooring and Sea Gator bravely riding it out. Check her blog for April 11 at JustAVacation.talkspot.com

A loud banging caught our attention. One of the snaps securing our windscreen cover had come undone. Rick reached outside to secure it; he said the rain felt like hailstones, it was coming so hard (and coming inside through the open door, in sheets). The snap wouldn't hold - he said if he'd tried to take the cover off it would have blown him away like a big kite - so eventually he tied it off with a length of cord and brought the bitter end inside and secured it.

While the helm door was open we heard the sound of a parachute opening (Marty later said he thought it was a helicopter). It was the jib of Larabeck, the sailboat next to us on our starboard side, which had shaken itself loose and was beginning to unfurl. The sailor took a chance coming forward to secure it - it was scary to watch him - and it took him a long time and several tries before he could manage it.

When we then turned to look out our port windows, we saw a very large bundle on Jenna Star's upper deck begin sliding toward the edge. I attempted to reach them by radio, but by then they must have heard the noise even above the storm and the man came outside to get drenched and to secure the bundle. Fortunately he was able to reach it safely from the aft deck.

Channel 16, the hailing and distress channel, was very busy with folks calling for help out in the open Gulf and on the River.

Runaway Boat

Mystical Dreamer Soon, through the sheets of rain, we saw a sailboat drifting down the channel. She wasn't moving purposefully, all things considered, and we immediately realized the boat was adrift. Just then Marty blasted a warning horn, again and again. There was nothing any of us could do but watch.

Rick recognized Mystical Dreamer, a boat that has sat empty since we arrived. Fortunately, the wind blew the sailboat ashore instead of among the other boats in the field, and she bumped hard near the seawall and a small dock.

The Calm After

The ferocity of the storm wasn't unusual, but its duration was. Estimates vary but folks say it lasted over an hour. Finally, the wind eased off somewhat. Rick and I immediately put on rain gear and went out to make sure Bump Head and our water jugs and deck chairs were still with us - they were - and we waved across to Bob and Cindy who were standing in their raingear in the shelter of JustAVacation's canvas.

Now that lives were no longer in danger radio traffic in the mooring field picked up. We listened to one of our neighbors call the Coast Guard about the runaway boat, and soon he was exchanging news with Jenna Star, who had also called it in.

Jenna Star had a better view than the rest of us, and he reported that Mystical Dreamer was in fact aground, not just abutting the dock or seawall - which was good, as I'd been concerned that with a shift in the wind direction or tide she would be among us again. But because so much water had blown into the Bay upon which the loose boat rode, as the storm subsided and the water headed back out to sea, she settled down hard several feet out from the dock and seawall.

Mystical Dreamer We returned a hail from Bob of JustAVacation. Bob noted dryly, "Well, it's OK, Mystical Dreamer has their mooring ball with them. So they're all right." I agreed that that was very reassuring. Because Sea Gator is also attached to a mooring ball so everything should be fine, right? No worries.

Bob reported that another sailboat had tried to come into a nearby marina during the worst of the storm and had ultimately tied off on the fenders beneath the big bridge - a risky but smart move which we couldn't see from where we are, but apparently they did a good job because they didn't wreck.

We returned a hail from Jenna Star. It turns out they had heard me hail them, and they had responded but I hadn't heard them - the storm was that loud. But we learned that the bundle skittering like a leaf along their upper deck and toward the edge contained their two bicycles.

Meanwhile, we telephoned Gary and Mickey. They were holed up at the church and we were able to assure them that Little Mick appeared to be intact. They were anxious to secure their boat so they decided to ride their bikes home while it was still raining. They got a good drenching.

And finally the storm subsided. We had lunch, Goldie emerged from her hiding place, and Rick and Goldie took a nap. Then I took a nap, then Goldie took another nap. Then Rick went out to bail the 6"-8" of water collected inside Bump Head.

While Rick was outside Marty motored by to tell him that one of the un-damaged anemometers in the moorings recorded gusts to 50 knots, or 57 mph (1 knot = 1.15077945 mph); then he motored off to continue his tour around the field and see if everyone was all right.

I fired up Bump Head and went to get Cindy from JustAVacation. I figured she would want pictures of poor Mystical Dreamer for her blog, too, so we checked it out. We found that the boat - a hefty monster with a cement hull - was actually leaning upon the outside piling of the unfortunate dock, above right. That won't last long I'm afraid. The piling was already beginning to buckle and the tide was still going out.

Cindy reported that during the storm they had had to go out to secure their dinghy which was threatening to fly away; fortunately they succeeded because it was still attached to their stern. It was still pretty grey and rainy out, but we finished our tour with a visit to Little Mick, where Gary and Mickey reported that a few of their portlights had blown open and things were pretty soggy below.

Julie B. aboard Calypso Later that evening there was a quiet breeze and a peaceful sunset over the mooring field and the unfortunate Mystical Dreamer, above left - without the obvious remains you'd never know that such a storm had come through.

We dinghied over to greet Jenna Star (it finally dawned on us that we recognize them from All American Boat Storage).

Then we continued on to join Julie and Jim B. aboard their new Calypso.

Julie and Jim, formerly of the motorsailor Pibroch, had hosted an excellent Robby Burns birthday celebration a few years ago and it was nice to get together with them in a leisurely setting. Marty and Connie were there as well and good stories - I swear, all these folks should write a book - and excellent treats were shared around. It was a very good way to end the day.

Here, Julie sees us off from Calypso's side deck.

The Viking Hords

Good news: no Viking ships have come to menace us.

Today we've heard more stories. There were waterspouts sighted in the Gulf about ten miles out; fortunately none came down in here. In the grocery store after aerobics I met a sailor from the anchorage back in the Bay; he said several boats dragged their anchor and one snagged him on the way by. His anchor was lost but he and his boat are OK. A sailboat in the moorings sustained damage including lots of water inside when one hatch was blown off. We heard that some sails were damaged but don't know whose.

The town's dockmaster of the moorings has been over to observe Mystical Dreamer several times; we hear they are going to try to tow her to a new mooring at a high tide later in the week.

Goldie asnooze in a sunbeam "They" forecast more wind and rain this week - nothing so drastic as yesterday's storm, I believe - but we'll stick close.

Goldie

Here she is, napping in the sunshine after having emerged from her fort. Except for a brief retreat to her hiding place when the lightening and thunder were carrying on yesterday, Goldie has taken her naps in our stateroom. Which is very nice because that way we can visit her and pet her luxurious fur at will.

We hope you are safe and warm. Watch out for runaway boats, 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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