Sort of a gray day today, but we went joy-riding in the dinghy up the Big Marco RIver. We'd never been up past the bridge -- which at high tide was showing 54 feet clearance, not enough for our 55 foot mast -- always nice to know! But the dolphins were churning up the waters like crazy. Bad thing about dolphins is it's almost impossible to catch them on camera, they appear and disappear in randome spots. I didn't get any good photos, but they were obviously playing around our joy-ride!
We didn't realize it, but the BIg Marco River goes all the way to Goodlands - part of the 10,000 Islands. Lots of birds and apparently lots of fish from the number of fishermen anchored off the channels. We enjoyed the ride, this must be similar to what the Little Shark River further south in the 10,000 Islands looked like before a hurricane stripped off all the foliage.
More dolphins toying with our joy-ride!
David spotted a jelly fish swimming along.... on the return trip, we opted for an afternoon real estate tour ...
But our favorite was still this waterslide inside the cage. Just as last year, we dinghied past at REALLY slow speed hoping to spot someone that might invite us inside for a test drive. But alas, no invitation, and besides, it was just a bit chilly....
Evenings end by the Key West Fast Ferry coming right past our stern about 8 PM. If you're anchoring in Factory Bay, Marco Island (inside Capri Pass), be sure to leave enough room for the big Key West Fast Ferry and Marco Princess to fit between your stern and the shoreline. Looks like they had a good time!
Sorry, no photos today ... With not one but three cold fronts due to come through before Sunday (today is Wednesday), we were looking at the hourly Weather.com forecasts to see when it was forecast to rain today.
Forecast says 2 - 3 PM... OK, so by 10 AM we're off in the dinghy to explore Smokehouse Bay - another anchorage here by Marco Island, but supposedly too shallow for us. We sounded it last year & it seemed deep enough, so David wanted to try it again just to make sure. It would be the perfect hide-out for a serious blow -- surrounded on all sides and small enough that there's no room for fetch. Probably would hold 4 boats easily. Today we went in & sure enough, the winding channel was deep enough. Only one boat was anchored.
Nice anchorage, but nothing going on. It would have it's advantages, there's a nice marina there - Esplanade - with very upscale shops and restaurants/bars on the bay. It's also close to Winn Dixie for groceries - we dinghied under the bridge and the grocery store actually has it's own dinghy dock! Plus they had fresh mahi mahi on sale for $5.99 a pound. Guess what we had for dinner tonight! YUM! Only too bad we didn't catch it.
We prefer to anchor in Factory Bay here at Marco Island, not a romantic sounding location, but we like watching all the boats come & go, including the Key West Fast Ferry & the Marco Island Princess Lunch & Dinner cruisers. Lots of tourist options -- from fishing to sightseeing to photography expeditions on pontoon boats. Makes the anchorage a bit rolly during the day with all the boat traffic, but lots of fun to watch. Plus there are dolphins cavorting, rays jumping and ospreys & pelicans competing to see who can execute the perfect kamikaze dive and come up with the biggest fish!
We got drizzled on a couple of times during our dinghy excursion, but the rain began in earnest about 5 PM ... just after David raised the dinghy and decided he didn't need to remove the drain plug... :)
It did subside long enough to grill the fresh mahi mahi blackened which we inhaled. Then the rains set in again. Good news is the new leaks we found last week & David bandaided - didn't leak today & it rained hard for awhile. All good!
Not every day while cruising can be all fun & games. In fact, we chuckle because we have to remind ourselves we're NOT on vacation, this is a lifestyle. Most of the other people here in Marco Island are on vacation for a week.
Vacationers get to just relax and enjoy their week. They don't have to do laundry, get groceries, clean house, make water, do boat maintenance chores and a variety of other stuff.
But taking a day or two out for chores is a small price to pay. And today was forecast to be nasty - windy, NOAA told us tonight on the VHF that it was blowing 35 outside. Inside the bay, the highest gust we saw was 24, but it's enough to make you cautious about leaving the boat.
First we made water - we have one empty tank, so we needed to make 35 gallons. If you look really close at the indicator on the left, you can see we're making between 10 - 15, and the Spectra Catalina 300 is rated for 13 gallons an hour. Not bad for an over 10 year old unit!
Then we did miscellaneous chores around the boat until we were both getting cabin fever and the wind calmed a bit in the late afternoon. Then we dinghied in to the Rose Marina dinghy dock, paid our $5 dinghy dock fee (waived if you buy fuel or anything in the gift store), and walked to Publix for a few supplies just to get off the boat.
Coming back we stumbled upon a place that our boat neighbors that just came in yesterday told us about called the Sand Bar. Despite the fact that we're on foot & lugging $50 of groceries, we decided to stop and see about grabbing dinner. But the place was PACKED. It's a local place filled with mostly charter boat fishermen, local captains and colorful characters. So we decided to come back another night and take our groceries home before the milk spoiled.
Yelp gives it 4 stars and says great fresh seafood and delicious shrimp at good prices. Yum, looking forward to another night!
So today was our first day in Marco Island. There are alot of things we like about this anchorage. First of all, there's a lot of dinghy exploring to be done AND lots of birds, dolphins and rays to enjoy while on our way through the mangroves to the beach.
Because it was a beautiful day, we shared Little Marco Beach with what seemed like thousands of rental pontoons with vacationers enjoying the "solitude".
But the really cool thing is virtually none of them wander across the island on the nature walks in the park ... this one was close to our dinghy, so we wandered across....
Beach looking north -- no one but us. If I had taken this photo south (into the sun), you'd have seen maybe 4 couples strolling the beach and the high rise Marco Island skyline in the far distance.
Nothing but white soft sand and LOADS of shells ... and us. We collected shells, looked for shark's teeth -- none this far south -- do we think that's because shark's only swim off Venice Beach... how do they know just to swim there so all their teeth collect fossilized on that beach? Anyway, great beach, lots of walking, lots of shells. We like to collect them and take them back to the lake. The grandkids like to play with them ... and this summer we may try to "plant" some on the tiny beach close to the lake house to see if family kids "discover" them on their own. :) Shhhh! Don't tell anyone! What fun!
Here's a tri-color heron keeping watch over the mangrove mazes. Not a great shot - they're very shy and fly away the minute we get mid-stream.
Back to civilization on Marco River Bay, we pass Snook's Bar & Restaurant. There's a really really COOL boat parked out front - lots of boats stop here for lunch, happy hour or dinner. This one was unusual and GORGEOUS! Wow! Wonder what tomorrow will bring! :)
This was one WEIRD day sailing! We left Naples about 10 AM, beautiful day, light winds from the south so we knew we'd have to tack the 7 miles to Marco Island, but figured worst case we get alot of great sailing short tacking along the coast and maybe catch a fish in the process. Didn't turn out quite like we planned....
A few hours into the great sail, no fish on yet, but look, there's this weird looking line of clouds behind us. David informs me that there was fog last night and that's the remnants of the fog line. OK...
Next thing we know, literally a few minutes later, we're engulfed in medium dense fog. We could see, but under a quarter mile -- if you look very closely, you can just see a sportfishing boat speeding up off our starboard bow to the right of the photo. So it got a bit intense to keep moving. We doused the jib and were proceeding very slowly on just the main -- along with our trusty brass bell ringing out a fog signal every few minutes.
We couldn't see this sailboat until the fog lifted just a bit and voila... What's UP with this, it's 1 PM and there's NOT supposed to be FOG in SW Florida! Remind me I never want to cruise the New England coastline!
After hanging out around the Marco Sea Buoy for a couple of hours, David had me call Sea Tow Marco & see if they were fogged in inside the channel & river. They said it was clear inside, just proceed very slowly and with extreme caution. Here you can barely make out the Marco coastline as we're inside a couple sets of channel markers.
An hour later and we're anchor down in Factory Bay and I sighted my very first frigate birds of the year -- FINALLY we're far enough south for frigate birds! I love it!! WOOHOO!!!
Uh oh... another hour later, settled at anchor and enjoying cocktails in the cockpit after a fairly stressful couple of fogged in hours, it looks like the fog bank is rolling in again -- notice the marker on the far right of this photo -- taken from Factory Bay shooting toward the entrance to the Marco River/Capri Pass.
OK, look VERY closely in the same general area on the right hand side of this photo - you can barely see a marker that's the same one in the previous photo -- the fog is rolling in again. The distress calls on VHF Channel 16 are increasing, busy busy radio night. SeaTow and TowboatUS are extremely busy helping boaters stranded/run aground in the fog. I can totally understand, when you're engulfed in fog how disorienting it can be. YIKES! Luckily we had radar and a GPS course from a previous time into Marco. What we would have LOVED to have had was AIS so we could maybe actually communicate with the other boats in our area.
Sunset was totally fogged in, but here's a bit earlier. We're glad we're safely anchored.
This morning on our second full day in Naples, we decided to dinghy up the mangrove creeks in search of wildlife. You know, like alligators, manatees, dolphins, birds & eagles? But instead we found this ... now THIS is Wild Life! Both David & I decided we NEED this for the lake!
The rest of the day, we walked around, watched the juniors race optimist prams out on Naples Bay (lucky kids!), had grouper sandwiches & happy hour overlooking the water, wandered by the art show, but decided we could see just as much art outside at all the little shops without paying to go in -- I think since it was after happy hour, David was afraid I'd buy something. :)
Returning to the boat after showers, we put the dinghy on board, hoping the weather forecast holds true for a good sail tomorrow south!
We have at least one friend in Naples that will be sorry to see us go, if only because when we let the lines go, he might need to move temporarily!
Naples ... I'm not sure I live in the same world as these lucky folks!
We dinghied around eying all the extensive estates from the water. Possibly the most amazing part was that several of the estates had boats bigger than Winterlude -- and they said "Tender To...." -- indicating they were the dinghy for a larger boat ... or cruise ship. Our dinghy is 9' long for a 37 foot boat. I guess that makes a 37 foot dinghy a tender to a 150 foot ship ... or maybe a true "yacht". :)
We were very thankful that our feet were all in good working order... since we only have 2 days here - it's looking like our weather window for Marco or points south may be Sunday ... we wanted to make sure we didn't miss a thing. So we walked ... first we walked from City Dock to the famous Naples Pier landmark -- you know, the one we almost hit yesterday when we kept having to tack out to compensate for the wind going faster south than forecast? :)
Dozens of folks fishing on the top, but underneath was more interesting visually.
Then we walked through not one, but two historic districts ... and then the famous Naples 5th Avenue -- lots of shops and cool sidewalk cafes filled with people enjoying themselves. Things must be tough even in Naples - we were surprised how many restaurants were offering fixed price meals -- $35 for an appetizer, two entrees, one dessert and a bottle of California wine. Wonder if Boone's Farm is bottled in California? We went back to the boat for dinner with our fabulous view instead.
Did I mention more private jets that we've ever seen anywhere? Made Chicago O'Hare look like a small town airport! We walked a total of 4 1/2 miles, although it felt like ten - especially the last mile back to City Dock after we'd gotten groceries at a wonderful local grocery called Wynn's Market.
Tonight we had a different view from the cockpit for dinner -- the Naples Yacht Club. I guess that means all those nice folks enjoying their dinner at the Naples Yacht Club had a great view of Winterlude! :)
Anchors up this morning at sunrise, an unusual hour for me. But just as we left the anchorage, this dolphin decided to play with us for the entire channel out! He actually turned on his side several times to look at me with one eye, but unfortunately he was just beneath the water and the photo didn't turn out. Se la vie!
But just before we turned to sail under the San Carlos Bridge, this American Bald Eagle gave us his blessing for the day.
And what a GREAT sail! Only 34 miles to Naples, but since the wind switched prematurely to south, we tacked ... and tacked ... and tacked... but with wind between 12 - 15 and 1 foot waves and lots of tourist boats out parasailing & sightseeing, who cares. We sat back and enjoyed the sail. I love sailing days like this!
Now we picked up a mooring ball at Naples City Dock. We're the only boat in the south mooring field -- located between the Naples Sail & Yacht Club and a bay full of amazing gazillion dollar homes. Sure they think we're hicks, sitting here on our boat sipping wine and enjoying the same sunset as they're looking at ... Hmmm... But at least I don't have on a fancy dress and David doesn't have on a tie & jacket! :) The view is the same. Their food might be slightly better, but not THAT much better! ;)
When we woke this morning, instead of the north wind at 11 that was forecast, we saw a beautiful blue morning with no wind. But before the first cup of coffee was done, the fog started drifting in.
I love firsts, and this was the very first time I saw a fog rainbow! Weird! Here one end is reflected in the water with a flock of birds flying by. It was an absolutely beautiful rainbow, but hard to capture on camera, so you'll have to take my word for it. :)
The first fish boat of the day to sell their catch at Cabbage Key, the fog is starting to lift.
Now we can even see the white pelicans and birds on the other side of the channel. And several markers south of where we were anchored, so it's time for anchor up.... unfortunately that north wind materialized right about then and blew the fog right back on us and we motorsailed in a fog window for the first hour and a half - weird -- and a bit scarey. Luckily most boats weren't out and about yet.
Later crossing the Miserable Mile, that wasn't the case. We can't decide if they call it the miserable mile because of the strong current that lies in wait to suck unwary navigators off into the foot of water on either side of the narrow channel... or if it's miserable because of all the power boaters that seem to think it's OK to FLY through this narrow channel creating absolutely havoc for the rest of us. Grumble, but luckily it's "only" a mile!
Once through the miserable mile, we found our anchorage, watched a spectacular sunset and now we're relaxing in the cockpit listening to a live band at a nearby resort play Louie Armstrong "and I think to myself, what a wonderful world" -- yep, they've got that right! :)
The tide came up faster than anticipated and we left Burnt Store Marina a bit before 10 AM. You can see the marina fading into the horizon. Meanwhile, "Bo" our Monitor Windvane is happy happy happy. And the trolling pole has been summoned into action.
I'm proud of us -- we had a fabulous sail across Charlotte Harbor, but the minute we turned south, the wind went south (forecast was for east). :( Our new mantra is we're going where the wind blows us. Wind on the nose is acceptable only if it's really light. But the knot or two of current against us made us decide to drop the anchor at Useppa Island - only 12 miles from when we started.
BUT, we had front row seats for the afternoon dolphin show -- several dolphins played all around us for a couple of hours. Feeding frenzy -- tossing fish into the air. The birds were going NUTS trying to intercept or crash dive for the dolphins fish. Unfortunately, it's one of those cruising experiences that just doesn't lend itself to great photos.
A cormorant takes flight after missing the dolphin's fish yet again...
It's going to be cool tonight so I baked an Easy Veggie Pie -- well, ours was a casserole because I don't have a pie pan aboard Winterlude. The oven heated up the cabin nicely and the meal was delicious.
Unfortunately, while dinner was baking, a boat came in behind us to anchor. To be kind, we'll refrain from mentioning the boat's real name, but you can call it "Mayhem Like Me" -- you know, the commercial where the guy is a disaster? They came in and threw out maybe 20 feet of chain in 12 feet of water. It wouldn't have been so bad except this boat is a powerboat and has about 10 feet of freeboard. Naturally, the anchor didn't set and they kept dragging back to the mangroves. So they pulled up the anchor and kept coming closer and closer to our stern, dropping the anchor again. They never did get the main anchor to hold, and their snubber line fell off, so they decided to do what any seasoned boater would do and rather than feed out more scope, they motored sideways and tossed over a tiny tiny danforth type anchor on line. I guess this is called a Bahamian anchor? YIKES! But they were incredibly immaculate -- during the hour plus anchor drill, they shop vac'd up whatever mess was on the bow twice.
Oh dear, all I can say is I'm glad the wind is forecast to go NORTH with a stalling cold front and be very light. They'll be beside us & hopefully the wind will stay light as forecast so no more mayhem develops! YIKES! David told me to write down the name of the boat so we will avoid them at ALL costs going south!
I know that's not very nice, and they might not be inclined to buy my cookbook, but ... mayhem is mayhem! :)
Keep your fingers crossed for the forecast winds from the North at 11 to hold tomorrow -- should be a great sail!