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STILL Hull Side Down

Travelogue - April 30, 2016

A New Cruising Companion

January, 2016. Five days before we were to fly away to Florida, a neighbor phoned. She and her husband had resuscitated a frozen ball of fur that thawed to reveal a tiny cat, and she asked if I knew anyone who "needed" a cat.

Said cat had somehow survived a long season of coyotes and eagles and badgers and owls. But the week of -30 temps, outdoors without shelter, had apparently been too much to ask. The creature reluctantly allowed Jim and Christina to coax her back to life, with soup administered through an eye dropper and blankets warmed by a microwaved potato. When Rick and I brought the kitty home to our house she was still a tiny limp, frost-damaged sack of bones and sorrow, not convinced life was worth the trouble.

We hustled her to the vet for a checkup, her first round kitten vaccines, and the knowledge that she could be no more than 6 months old. Then we brought her to the airport; then flew her to Florida. She took it all in her stride, with either philosophical acceptance or profound weariness. But within a few weeks she began to perk up, eventually adding muscle to her frame and hulking up to 6.7 pounds (!), half again her starting weight. We kept plying her with food and water and warmth and love, and eventually she became a cat and (thanks to Megan) she became a cat named Chloe.

Shedding Body Parts

One day we came home to find a small chunk of fur and cartilage on the floor: the frostbitten tip of Chloe's right ear had fallen off. She never batted an eye, and her little ear looked rounded and smooth like a koala's ear. Well, if that's the only lasting side effect of her traumatic beginning, we all got off to an easy...

...but wait. The following week, behold another chunk of cat left lying about: the tip of Chloe's left ear had fallen off. This was a bigger chunk of flesh lost, from a deeper burn down into the meat of the ear, leaving an irregular concave edge looking like a bite taken with cruel fangs. Now her ears are lopsided, but, again, it doesn't seem to trouble her. So we pretend we don't notice. We also don't mention her little shaved belly and stitches, where in late February she was spayed.

Later, at anchor, Rick and I returned to the boat from a hike and Chloe led me to a chunk of black fur on the floor, and Now what the... ? Fur and bone and.. OMIGOD!!... the frostbitten tip of Chloe's tail fell off!!! Gaah! Rick and Chloe both thought I was overreacting but I had to go lie down.

Good times

Louise and Greg came to Florida and Lu shared them with us long enough for a Sea Gator cruise to Cayo Costa (left). They were excellent boat guests, good sports, and everyone had a great time!

We jumped at the opportunity to drive to Sanibel and rendezvous with Gil and Brenda of Suits Us, right. They were taking time for a brief Florida visit, in between their travels to Ireland, New Zealand and Australia. In Australia, Gil said, they took a tour where they were lead on a climb to the top of the towers of the bridge in Sydney Harbour. I told them they should have let me know - I could have asked Janice and Abhijit to step out onto their terrace and wave!

Boat chores. Finally, this season's projects, successfully completed:

Now we're good to go.

February, 2016. We returned to Cayo Costa to get in a couple more hikes across the island. We were very happy to see Paul and Barbara's new Mariner Yacht (formerly M/V Quittin' Time), and to reconnect briefly with them.

We also reconnected with all the trails on the island. Our favorite is the long loop around the perimeter, north of the main dock-to-beach thoroughfare. One day, as we rounded the point overlooking Boca Grande pass we saw a swarm of... something... flittering about 15' off the ground, around the trees and over the beach and swooping to the bushes and back around. Dragonflies! They flew too fast to distinguish any individual's flight pattern - but there were no mid-air collisions. The light glinted off their wings and they flickered past like dust motes in a sunbeam. It was magical.

Unfortunately, Pelican Bay was more crowded than we'd ever seen it, including our remote back anchorage - which should only have in it people we select, such as our personal friends. But, nobody asked us. One evening, after dark, a man started yelling at the top of his lungs, "TURN OFF YOUR GENERATOR YOU INCONSIDERATE ASSHOLE!"

Not to us FYI: to the individual who did have his generator running an awfully long time, and who proceeded to explain himself at the top of his lungs. But of course, the real a** is the one who, instead of quietly dinghying over to the neighbor in the daylight and discussing noise abatement face to face, would wait until the cover of darkness and then scream so we all had to be witness. Which was much more obnoxious than the background noise of a generator.

Soon we were happy to rendezvous with Little Mick - as our friends are welcome in Pelican Bay any time. We shared evenings aboard each other's boats, and as usual Rick and I enjoyed catching up with Gary and Mickey.

In a few days, as we motored away from the anchorage for a brief sojourn ashore (for Chloe's spaying appointment) Gary radio'd to ask if we would take their mail (time-sensitive birthday cards) ashore. Of course we would; plan on a starboard-to-starboard pass. Photo, right, Gary entrusts his valuable correspondence to the new Pelican Bay Trawler Express.

In the fullness of time, the mail went on its way and Chloe did just fine with her surgery. So we bid farewell to Lu and headed out, again.

Boca Grande

March, 2016. Our first stop was the bayou at Boca Grande where Little Mick soon joined us. The bayou requires a med moor. Right, Rick helps them with their stern tie-up.

Here we are anchored against the mangroves, left: Toucan, Sea Gator, and Little Mick.

Boca Grande has lots to offer: we all walked the beach, wandered the shops, and went to the free movies.

One memorable evening Rick and I attended a fascinating lecture and slide show, presented by Doug Wilson, director and producer of the long-running ABC Wide World of Sports. Rick had seen nearly every episode when it originally aired, and the talk was equally fascinating to me as a novice. The man knows how to tell a story - which, he explained, was exactly why the show was successful: they told stories about athletes and sports around the world, including geographical and social tidbits here and there. He was a wonderful speaker as he was humble, engaging, and dynamic. Afterward Rick bought a copy of Wilson's book "The World Was Our Stage", and now Rick owns his first personally autographed book.

Captain Moe and Pat came over to the island for dinner one night, which is always fun (right: Moe, Pat, Mickey, Gary, me and Rick). Moe caught me up on his/our family's doings and I was very glad to hear that all my cousins are doing well.

Gary and Mickey left a few days before we did. Rick helped them cast off their stern lines.

In a few days we headed south to Cayo Costa (again), Bimini Basin (easy walk to the grocery store), Ft. Myers Beach (yes, I bought another pair of 3 Escargot earrings on the beach).

Ft. Myers River District

Eventually we made our way in good order to Ft. Myers Yacht Basin, where Sea Gator joined Pam and Don V. of Gallivant at the marina for a week. So nice to see our good friends again! Since we'd seen them last they'd been spending their time in Charleston, and accomplishing the Great Loop. So much to talk about! So much catching up to do! So many beers to drink (Rick and Don)! So many shoes... so many donuts... (Pat and Pam).

East Meets West

Rick had scheduled some of his new clients for a three-day training session - we much preferred that they travel to the U.S. from Vietnam, than that Rick fly off to Hanoi. Accordingly, we reserved a small conference room at the Indigo Hotel in the heart of the newly refurbished and trendily buzzing River District of Ft. Myers.

The clients - two young professionals: Phu the chemist and Giang the IT guy - proved to be bright and intelligent and eager to be pleased with Rick and with their first visit to America. After one long day of diligent study we all enjoyed a relaxed and friendly evening together (right: Pam, Phu, Don, Will, Giang, and Rick). Both Don and Will had been to Southeast Asia in their day, and Don in particular was interested in meeting the next generation.

Nobody quite knew what to expect of the evening but we all agreed with Giang's ready observation: If governments stayed out of the way, regular people would all get along just fine.

And it was so: our friends are good-hearted, and our guests were again eager to be pleased with everything they saw. The discussion of the war was brief - the young men's only personal association with their country's "civil war" is through Phu's uncle, who was a medic in the army.

We immediately found that we all had the most important things in common: children (both young men are new fathers); families (like most of their countrymen they live with their extended families, their parents helping to raise the children); food, coffee, work, travel (their commutes are 45 minutes for Giang and 2 hours for Phu, each way, as housing near their downtown offices is too pricey for the young families), and motorcycles and automobiles (because guys are the same the world over).

Phu and Giang were bound for a long weekend in New York to complete their introduction to America. They also planned a day trip by train to Washington because it was their dream to see the White House - they looked forward eagerly to the selfies. They later reported that they had learned a lot from Rick, had a great time with us and with our friends, and they made it safely back home to their families. And now we all have friends to visit in Hanoi!

Rick's Birthday

Having successfully completed the recent training session, Rick ("don't-talk-about-my-birthday") was relaxed for the weekend. We spent a casual birthday with Pam and Don: we all walked to breakfast at First Watch, then took an informative (and sweaty) stroll through The Butterfly Estates then broke for cold drinks at the snack bar; then more cold drinks and a late lunch at The Connection, then browsing the classic car rally on First Street (right).

In the relative cool of the evening, Rick and I attended a play at the community Repertory Theater, Becky Gets A New Car, and it was all in all a very fine day.

The next day we headed south, again.

Smokehouse Bay, Marco Island

April, 2016. Our first few hours in the anchorage were not propitious: we had planned to rendezvous with Charles for happy hour. We were late, so we headed out - violating our standing policy that we stay aboard at least one full tidal cycle after anchoring, just to be sure all is secure.

But the weather turned nasty. So Rick hurried back to the anchorage while I continued on to fetch our friend. Then the wind really kicked up, and by the time Rick and Bump Head had battled the waves out to Sea Gator, her anchor had dragged and the captain of the tri-maran in our lee had put out more line and was anxiously pacing his deck.

Rick fired up Sea Gator's engine and kept everything stable until the winds settled enough for him to come get me and Charles, and with Charles' assistance we weighed anchor and motored out further in the Bay to re-anchor. Safely far away from innocent bystanders. Yeesh - second time dragging the anchor in 11 years, which isn't bad at all but which is more than plenty as far as I'm concerned (knock on wood).

Above left, Rick and Charles enjoy a more relaxed happy hour the next day. A friendly tipsy lady came up to our table and asked the two if they were brothers - hey, now that you mention it...! Charles is on his way north and we wish him safe cruising!

Sea Gator's new spot was far from the dinghy dock, but conveniently close to channel marker 13 (right) and its resident family of osprey. It was entertaining to listen to the cacophony each time mom brought home the bacon - it made us smile with satisfaction when the little ones' beaks were filled and peace reigned.

Soon, George and Nancy arrived aboard Jenna Star, traveling back north after their season in the Keys. Always so great to see them! They docked at a friend's place in a Marco canal (left), and we enjoyed visiting with them for a late lunch at CJs On the Bay; then an early breakfast at Hoots; then a lovely bit of shopping (no buying).

Their beautiful 34' American Tug is now for sale - act now!


Whitehorse Key, Ten Thousand Islands

We provisioned at the Winn Dixie near Smokehouse Bay (they have a dinghy dock specifically available to shoppers) and set off southward to the anchorage we first explored last year, just inside Whitehorse Key.

As Rick said: we have a full water tank, an empty holding tank, and a refrigerator full of fresh produce - what more could anyone want!

Whitehorse Key itself has an abbreviated beach, but we still walked it every chance we had. Here's my new screensaver, right.

And it did finally warm up enough to swim, and enjoy the beach, which we did (left).

There were lots and lots of no-see-ums and mosquitos, but after a ridiculously long learning curve we've finally got the system down: don't leave the boat during the witching hours of dawn and dusk-dark, and when you do leave goop up.

I am putting my faith in the Skin-So-Soft insect repellant/sun screen combo recommended by a lady at the marina in Goodland, and a butane-fired mosquito deterrent recommended by a Goodland fishing guide - if anyone knows how to deal with pernicious insects, it's boaters and fisherman in Goodland. Rick puts his faith in Deep Woods OFF. As long as we religiously observe our methodology it seems to be working, but any backsliding whatsoever leaves us in a hell of tiny fiendish bugs aboard.

In between work and hiding out from insects we dinghied to Whitehorse Key for the occasional swim and cool down. One day we met a group of gentlemen who had driven over from Miami, and kayaked from Port of the Isles to the key. They fought the incoming tide and headwind all the way down, yikes! But they were all set to camp out for the weekend and enjoy the solitude.

On another day we were greeted at the island by two young girls, whose also-friendly family had come on a day boat to view wildlife. "Welcome to Dolphin Point!" they caroled. So, now it is: Dolphin Point.

Is it because of the quiet and solitude of this anchorage? Or just that it takes me all of three months to finally relax? For whatever reason, this is my favorite place to be, with my two favorite people, and we will stay here as long as our water/holding tank/fresh produce holds out.

Chloe The Brave

Chloe continues to thrive. She still exhibits the playful personality traits of a kitten - energy, imagination, poor spatial awareness - but with the growing strength and size of an adolescent cat she can sometimes be a danger to herself and others.

It has been a pleasure to watch her expand her world. Whereas it was weeks before she would venture out from under the bed, she now flies around the boat - bounding from steps to settee to helm, ricocheting from floor back to steps - and developing her parkour skills in remarkable ways. One afternoon she worked her way down to the swim platform, which caused a panic, but she brought herself back up OK.

Here she takes a brief siesta between MMA bouts with the blue-and-white Mr. Weasle (a gift from her Florida godparents, Elaine and Jim of Wynsum), putting him off his guard with a cuddle before disembowelling him yet again.

She is proving to be bright and adaptable - if not obedient - so we think she will be an excellent traveling companion.

Down to the Wire

One more beautiful sunset, please, just one more.


Where did the winter go?

We wish you all smooth sailing and calm seas!

- Pat and Rick


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