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On the Move

Travelogue - March 5, 2012
"Perhaps by the end of the winter," I think, "when hunger truly bites us, when we are cold and starving, or when the barbarian is truly at the gate, perhaps then I will abandon the locutions of a civil servant with literary ambitions and begin to tell the truth."

- J. M. Coetzee, Waiting for the Barbarians

Then again, maybe not.

Meanwhile

The dream One of my goals this year is to learn to cook. Yessir. One cannot live on wedding cake alone. So one breezy day I resolved to cook up a pot of lovely lentils.

I had big plans - oh yes. We would share the flavorful dish with our friends that evening aboard Sea Gator. Sure I was preoccupied but I had a plan and everything was going well.

Midway through the proceedings Rick asked me to refill his water glass and he held it out to me across the counter. I settled the lid on the pot, filled his glass and handed it up to him. Then I turned back to the stove...

My hot pad was GONE!

I searched every square inch of the galley (which took all of ten seconds). No hot pad. Maybe I was mistaken and had not been using the hot pad? That must be it. Tra la la.

The reality Meanwhile the soup pot burbled gently on the stove, steam wafting aloft. Hmmm... I lifted the lid and peaked inside...

Here's a tip for everyone who relies on June's beautiful hand-woven hot pads for their most creative galley needs: no matter how many times they've been washed, if you immerse them in boiling water they WILL release all of their fun colors into your lentils.

Needless to say our friends were offered mini-pretzels with no explanation or apology. And my brief attempt at culinary competence was quietly buried.

By now you've surely reached the same conclusion I have:

It's all Rick's fault.


Quick Trip to Boca Grand

Boca Grande Marina Last travelogue we spent mostly reminiscing about the summer, while rocking peacefully in Pelican Bay. After ten days at anchor we motored over to the Boca Grande Marina for a single overnight to empty Sea Gator's holding tank, reprovision at Hudson's Grocery, go to the movies, and stroll through the pretty town.

Here is our modest Sea Gator, right, dwarfed by the massive Hillarium behind her stern.

We enjoyed our brief visit to civilization, and were equally glad to return directly to our former anchorage and rest "on the hook" for another ten + days.


Ft. Myers Beach moorings

Sunset at Matanzas Pass On Thursday, February 9, we motored south and settled in at Ft. Myers Beach mooring field. Here is Rick's traditional First Sunset photo across the bow, right.

Ft. Myers Beach was a nice stopover, and we accomplished everything we needed to in ten days: we visited, did some laundry, and re-provisioned.

One day I walked up to Summerlin Square to meet Blackfoot's Pam. She and I enjoyed a nice lunch and caught up on each other's news. Pam's friends will be disappointed that I forgot to bring my camera, sorry. Although she and Frank are in the midst of changing locations, we hope to see them again in the spring when we pass northward.

Rick and I spent a very pleasant evening aboard Calypso with Julie and Jim. Ditto no camera, but I assure you they are both looking very well. They are planning a "cruise" to South American this winter, although not aboard Calypso.

Eventually Suits Us moored next to Sea Gator. Brenda and Gil are tough to catch in between all their visitors, so we were glad to have them aboard one evening. Rick had had the good fortune to visit them in Kentucky this past summer, but I was still trying to catch up with everybody's news. Too soon, they departed southward. We would see them further down the line.

Shirley and Dan I reconnected with the lovely "Sea Gals" - it was particularly great to see Michelle and Marge - to discuss common problems and common solutions, and Rick accomplished good Work for his clients.

Rick, Shirley and Dan on the pier The highlight: Shirley and Dan, our friends from Jackson, braved the causeway from Sanibel to visit us one day, fresh from their Caribbean cruise. We enjoyed celebrating them aboard Sea Gator, right, and showing them some of the fun sights of Ft. Myers Beach including lunch on the beach and a walk on the pier, left.

It always amazes me that we can't seem to find the time to visit our friends during the the seven months we live less than 30 miles apart, but we can always manage the logistics for a rendezvous 2,423 miles from home!

But WHY?

Pedestrians of all varieties passed by our bench as we waited for the down-island trolley. Some were more memorable than others.

One nicely dressed lady didn't break stride as she looked me right in the eye and stated levelly "I don't love you anymore." And she continued on her way. We stared after her but she didn't say anything else and she didn't turn back.

I can't help wondering what I - or someone - did to lose her love. Whatever it was I hope that she found peace after her declaration.

Friends of a BIG Library

Ft. Myers Beach Library expansion Rick and I stocked up at the Friends of the Fort Myers Beach Library's used book store. The place consisted of two large rooms lined and partitioned with bookshelves. Very nicely organized, as each section was alphabetized by author - which is more than we've been able to accomplish with our little 500+/- book collection at the restored Bondurant Library.

The store brings in approximately $35K annually. Between the bookstore and other efforts, the Friends are financing an enormous $8 MILLION addition to the Fort Myers Beach Library. I hyperventilated.

We did our best to support their efforts by loading up on books for the winter. I staggered up-island to the dinghy dock with an enormous shopping bag banging into my knee at every step. Our reading has been all over the map so far.

So what's in the book bag today?

Twilight

Book cover Well, I began by reading the book that everyone else in the country read when it came out way back in 2005. I have no problem with the whole vampire concept. But I'm certain the average immortal can find something better to do than repeat his or her senior year of high school over and over, and I draw the line at vampire family home evening.

The books are dangerous for young women: they romanticize giving up one's goals and independence for a guy. A guy who doesn't even like her for her humor, intelligence, kindness, etc... get this: he is attracted to her smell. How's that for arbitrary and transient? Way to undermine a girl's self-esteem and confidence.

Plus there's the whole underlying snuff motif. On that note, why does the cover art show a girl's hands holding the apple? Isn't he the one offering forbidden knowledge/death (please don't write to explain it to me)?

Here's our hero, flirting:

Edward is a jerk - I'd stand in line to stake him myself.

Then there's this litany:

All of the above said with a straight face while actively pursuing our heroine.

Army of Darkness My lovelies, when a guy tells you he's "not worth it", here's you saying: "Wow, hey, thanks for the tip!" And then here's you scampering away as fast as your little legs can carry you.

Because if he's telling the truth then, obviously, run like hell.

And if it's a clever ploy so you'll devote all your energies to "make him feel better about himself" then he's a manipulative loser and this is only the beginning. Either way, leave and you win!

Where was I? Right, so I admit I read all 500 pages because I kept thinking that surely something would happen but as it turns out I was wrong. I would rant on but others have done my work for me. See Cracked.com and Occupation: Girl.

Give me a time honored classic any day, say Army of Darkness:

Alright you primitive screwheads, listen up! You see this? This... is my boomstick! The twelve-gauge double-barreled Remington. S-Mart's top of the line. You can find this in the sporting goods department. That's right, this sweet baby was made in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Retails for about a hundred and nine, ninety five. It's got a walnut stock, cobalt blue steel, and a hair trigger. That's right. Shop smart. Shop S-Mart. You got that?

And the immortal "First you wanna kill me, now you wanna kiss me. Blow." Now there's honest dialogue.

BTW, my google search for Bruce Campbell's/Ash's exact quote (one strives for accuracy) lead me to Primitive Screwheads, the acting troupe. I think...


Southward

Smooth cruise Having completed our appointed tasks we were ready to deposit Twilight in the Matanzas Inn's cruiser's book exchange and continue our journey south.

We had heard that the mooring field at Naples has been repaired and reopened after Hurricane Charlie, and that maybe the residents of Naples are not quite as hostile to boaters as we'd been told for seven years, so we decided to check it out.

On Wednesday, February 22, we motored south to Naples. It was a straightforward cruise. Scenery consisted of high-rise condos on the landward side and open seas on the Gulf side, as you can see over my shoulder, right.

As always we traveled with the VHF radio tuned to Channel 16. We were astounded to hear a U.K.-flagged freighter 50 miles west of Cuba call for and receive instruction from the Havanna harbormaster. Her last port of call had been Ecuador via the Panama Canal. Very cool.

Boat traffic The waves were well over 2' outside, but the roughest part of the cruise proved to be the last 30 minutes from Gordon Pass through Naples Bay to the City Marina, left (just kidding).

Truth: Dozens of day-boats ripped through kicking up ferocious wakes. Sea Gator can handle it but she rocked and rolled; our books were stable throughout the open water cruise but here in the "protected" channel they flew off the shelves.

Rick muttered an appropriate word under his breath, but I don't know how to spell it. I was reminded of the fellow who nearly swamped us (Gary, Mickey, me and Rick) on one of our dinghy-jaunts a few years ago. As the huge wake rocked Little Mick's small dinghy we all shrieked and grabbed the gunwales. The guy looked baffled and stammered "But it's not a no wake zone." We tried to explain that just because the sign says you CAN go 30 mph doesn't mean you HAVE to.

Well, nothing but our patience was bruised, and Rick made a clean landing at the City Marina.

Manly Jobs

Waste pump out Naples requires boaters to pump out their (blackwater) holding tanks prior to picking up a mooring. Fair enough. So Rick gamely stepped ashore to wrestle with the unwieldy hose, right. With some effort he unrolled it from the pump and dragged the business (or "icky") end to the vicinity of Sea Gator's main holding tank access on her port side deck. What a job!

I did not help. I strolled to the Marina's air-conditioned office, below left. The assistant dockmaster and I chatted amicably while conducting our business. Marlene penned my receipt and I glanced out the window, just in time to see Rick suddenly leap to the dock and tear off his shirt. He grabbed a water hose and began sluicing himself down at full blast while hopping from foot to foot.

Naples City Dock dockmaster's office "Hm," I mused aloud. "That's not good."

Marlene followed my gaze out the window in time to see Rick rip off his shoes. "No," she agreed. "That's not good." We watched in companionable silence as Rick turned the hose onto his shorts, bare chest and legs, all while stamping and waving his arms. His mouth moved rapidly.

Inside the office the air conditioner hummed. Casually I inquired "Do you have laundry facilities?"

Naples City Dock slips "Why, yes we do," she answered pleasantly, as Rick blasted his shirt in the water spray. "Two machines each, one dollar for wash, one dollar for the drier."

"My, that's reasonable," I remarked, while outside Rick began scrubbing his feet, "I guess I know what I'll be doing tonight." Marlene chuckled. I thanked her and left her office, skirting the antics on the dock and boarding Sea Gator as unobtrusively as possible.

Rick got us to our mooring ball in record time, all while cussing the back-blast of the waste pump. "It's supposed to suck, not blow!" he repeated, over and over. He was so anxious to leap into the shower that he overshot and it took me two tries to bring the pennant aboard and tie on. But soon his clothes were safely quarantined in a plastic garbage bag and he was sudsing up for his third consecutive hot shower.

Sometimes it's good to let somebody else have the "manly" jobs.

Naples

Naples Pier anglers After Rick was scrubbed, sanitized and calmed, we dinghied ashore and set to explore Naples. We didn't get far, as we stumbled upon a nice bay-side restaurant on the first street corner and there, after Rick washed his hands yet again, we shared some very good fish tacos.

Afterward we headed for the pier:

The Naples Fishing Pier is one of the most popular attractions in Naples, Florida. Originally built in 1888... narrow gauge train rails spanning the length of the pier transported freight and baggage in the early 1900's. Part of the structure as well as the post office located on the Naples Pier was razed by fire in 1912. Rebuilt after damage by hurricanes in 1910, 1926 and 1960, it remains a public symbol of the area's history...

Stay away from the sharp end The modern pier is 1,000 feet long, and seemingly every inch of the downwind rail was shoulder-to-shoulder with fisherfolk, above right.

Dolphins wrestled for the hooked fish. Successful anglers yelled "Out of the way!" and flung their catch over their shoulders onto the boardwalk as tourists dodged flying fish. Spanish Mackerel flopped on the boardwalk left and right.

One little boy yelled aloud "It's aMAZing!" The proud fisherman patiently brought his catch to kid-level, left, warning the boy to "stay away from the sharp end." The boy's mother helped him touch the fish's sleek body with his one tentative finger, left.

Glass wall Rick and I continued our tour of the town. We strolled on wide sidewalks through immaculately tended neighborhoods - we saw no one out and about in their yards. But the town's two high-end shopping districts were both packed with happy shoppers crowding elbow-to-elbow into the shops and outdoor cafes.

We visited the former commercial dock which has been converted to shops called Tin City, reminiscent of but not quite so nice as Trolley Square in Salt Lake City.

Here is a public art installation, right, which I liked very much. You can spin the glass panels.

The city park was lovely and its playground was well maintained and under heavy use. One drawback I quickly noted was that the park was landlocked. I found no direct access to Naples Bay from the public realm downtown. That doesn't mean it didn't exist, but the waterway I saw was lined with private homes and businesses and - unless you had a boat at the City mooring - your only chance to sit by the water was to pay one of many restaurateurs to eat food on their deck. Sadly, the situation is not uncommon as we observed in Coconut Grove last year.

Entry courtyard On to more good stuff: sidewalks were available throughout and we enjoyed walking in safety and admiring the fancy homes. I took many photos of pristine landscape installations including this particular specimen, left.

Rick observed that the waist-high security gate, visible in the foreground, is clearly designed to keep out your average wheelchair-bound criminal.

Imagine the terrified homeowner (portrayed by Benny Hill) frantically fumbling with his key at the lock then leaping through and slamming the gate behind him in the nick of time! He breathes a sigh of relief and looks on as his potential mugger bumps ineffectually into the barricade, bump bump bump.

The geriatric criminal shakes his fist: "Curses, foiled again!"

We didn't encounter any geriatric muggers, but we were careful to get home before dark.


Laundry and Life

Sure enough, the Naples City Dock has two washers and two dryers. They are located outdoors, on the back side of the shower building, under a nice shade structure. I loaded both washing machines and settled in.

Fishing guide cleans the catch The day wore to a close. I ran out of quarters and visited Marlene for change just before the dockmaster's office closed. Charter fishing boats drifted in and guides cleaned their catch and tossed the leavings to flocks of pelicans elbowing each other in the water below, right.

Families crowded the dock taking pictures of fussing pelicans, flashing knives and flying fish parts.

Tourists roamed about digesting their dinners. I posed as a Knowledgeable Person for some nice folks from Ohio who wanted to know about live-aboard boating. I answered their questions to the best of my ability and when they said "We wish we could do that" I told them "You can."

A man cleaning his charter boat accidentally blasted an air horn and I jumped. "Sorry about that," he called. He explained that one of his last party that day had spilled an entire beer into the deck box and so he had to remove everything - including the air horn - and wash it all. And so I met Captain Ray.

I asked Ray what he liked best about his job, and he described in detail the pleasure he gets while sharing his love of fishing with kids who are eager to learn. His favorite passengers are families but Captain Rays Charters will take any group out for fishing, or sightseeing, or shelling and picnicking.

Captain Ray Soon I was sitting on Ray's dock swinging my feet while he worked and we talked. Ray assured me that leaving his high-paying high-stress sales job was the best choice he ever made. "My wife and I stay on a tight budget", Ray admitted, "but we wouldn't have it any other way. I was not happy behind that desk, and my family wasn't happy then either." Now, he said, even though he generally works more hours in a day, they are good hours.

By then it was full dark and lights from the laundry area lit the dock. I told Ray about my job and its ups and downs, and what might happen next. He said in earnest, "If you have a dream, don't wait! You don't want to look back and say 'what if'..."

And I thought about those folks from Ohio, and how lucky I am.

By that time Rick had finished his fifth shower of the day and he strolled up to join the conversation. Soon Rick returned to Sea Gator and Ray finished cleaning his boat and headed on home. Tourists returned to their hotels and lights flickered off about the moorings.

And I stayed, listening to buttons clacking in the dryer and the breeze whistling through the rigging and the sleepy chatter of the pelicans, and I thought about what Ray said:

"No regrets." Good advice.

And then I thought, Hey! I just had a great conversation with a total stranger!

Suits Us Maybe I'm getting my mojo back?!?!?

And wouldn't that be nice!

Tripod Key

Thursday, February 24. Weather was coming and we were going. Suits Us departed the mooring field mid-morning on their way to Marco, right. See you later, Brenda and Gil!

We cast off at noon and followed in their wake, south on the inland passage: through Dollar Bay, around Little Marco Island, skirting Johnson Bay, then in and out the crazed Capri Pass, circling the town of Marco, and finally down the Big Marco River to Goodland.

Osprey nest This is one of my favorite passages - I love watching the riverbanks slide by. Osprey nests crowned nearly every nav aid, left. All was well, and we came to one of Rick's favorite anchorages, just southwest of Sugar Bay and inside Tripod Key. We settled in for a week of Work while the weather blew itself out.

Sunset over Tripod Key Here is Rick's First Sunset shot of our stay, right.

Collier County apparently spent last summer building a boat park in Goodland! It's a wonderful place with long docks, slips for dayboats, water, restrooms, a boat ramp, and tiny ship's store. So now we have a place to tie Bump Head when we want to head into town. Which we did several times:

Twice we enjoyed breakfast at Marker 8: During our first visit our middle-aged waitress saw me go outside to fan my belly and wipe my dripping face with my own shirt, and soon she and I were soul sisters comparing discomfort and home remedies.

During our second visit for breakfast the nice lady at the next table asked us where we were from, and so we met Art and Mary Gramm from Ft. Wayne, Indiana. Mary cheerfully told us about the house they bought in Goodland years ago, complete with a Grady-White fishing boat tied to the slip out back.

The next day Art and Mary motored by Sea Gator on their way home from Sugar Bay, and Rick saw them but wasn't quick enough to go outside and welcome them aboard. Mary and I are now pen pals so hopefully we'll be able to make a plan to visit the next time we are all in Goodland at the same time.

Mar-Good Park icon The County was mere days away from opening the new "Mar-Good Park", across the street from Goodland's post office (which we didn't know until we'd toured the entire Park from that side street pedestrian entrance, before spotting the "no traspassing" signs on our way out via the parking lot entrance - oops). The park's designers salvaged this old resort boat, left, to display at the pedestrian entrance. The meandering paths lead to benches overlooking the tiny harbor. It's nicely done.

On another day we dinghied our bikes ashore and that's when I found out that my rear wheel had sprung two more spokes, so Rick detached the rear brake. He rode and I wobbled to Marco for groceries. It's a nice ride since Rick found an excellent back street route. On the way we met some other nice folks on their rental bikes, and what with one thing and another Rick ended up telling them about the Muscle Car Museum in Punta Gorda which the man agreed they just HAVE to see. So that was fun.

Tripod Key was excellent as always. We Worked and slept, and I learned some new routines. One morning we responded to a hail from Suits Us and we ran out to the bow to wave at Brenda and Gil as they motored out Coon Key Pass to the Gulf on their own journey south. We finished out the week.

As the weekend approached we saw a three-day weather window coming - just enough to get down to the Keys without missing too many work days.

But we weren't alone...

Stow Aways

Oops. I left the screens open on our first evening in Naples. It was just so nice out! I also left the screens off the open hatches for several hours after we anchored off Tripod Key near the mangroves because, as I wheedled to Rick, "It's just so nice out!"

And that's how our home became filled with invisible stinging insects. No-see-ums, and mosquitos and flies, and no doubt there would have been alligators aboard, too, if they had figured out a way to climb up to chew on us.

Rick tried to elicit sympathy for his four little pin-prick bites, and I did feel bad for him (since the problem was pretty much some might say entirely, my doing) although I believe that the two dozen huge and painful welts covering my legs and hips are penance enough.

Southward to the Keys

Goldie resting On Thursday, March 1 we left Tripod Key for the short hop to Russell Pass, an excellent anchorage at the mouth of the Barron River. We anchored near the mouth of the pass to catch a breeze. It was an excellent stop over as always; several boats came in to anchor near us and everybody settled in for a peaceful evening.

The next day, Friday March 2, we had a bumpy ride, rearing up and crashing down 4'+ waves. For Rick and me, head seas are easier than rolling to beam seas, but Goldie hates the crashing and banging of head seas the most and the poor little creature threw up, pooped, and peed her pants during the seven-hour trip. As Rick observed, "Every orifice was represented."

Poor Goldie! I soothed her and I cleaned her and her hutch as best I could underway, but was unable to do much until we anchored in the quiet waters of Ponce de Leon Bay, just north of the Everglade's Little Shark River.

At which time Goldie was forced to submit to a bath - her first - which did nothing to improve her mood. I toweled her and brushed her and combed her and petted her and plied her with treats.

Poor, poor Goldie - I hope we never put her through that again. Here she rests, above right. She doesn't want to talk about it.

Goldie awake in her locker The next morning, Saturday, March 3, we weighed anchor at 6:15 a.m. for the long hop to the Middle Keys. Thank goodness it was a smooth ride and we were very relieved on Goldie's behalf. Here she is, left, in her relaxed posture in the PFD locker during that smooth ride.

We came to a safe mooring in Boot Key Harbor. We are literally as close as we can be to Dale and Vesta's house, short of tossing our anchor in their yard. It's nice to have good neighbors.

We'll be in the harbor for the month and then we'll see what the weather has in store after that.

Take care, everybody! Stay warm!!

Pat, Rick and Goldie

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