Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Sweet Marco Island

We’ve been at Marco Island for nearly a month now. We had no intention of staying here that long, but when we find a good thing, we may as well go with it.

This little bay is tucked away, free from wakes and swells and we are close to shore with a free dinghy dock at the grocery store. Laundry is close by and we’ve managed to find a few things to do for entertainment. Thursday nights, CJ's on the Bay has live music. The downside is it’s the exact same songs in the same order every week. We've only gone once, but can hear the music on Sanibel.
It looks crowded and it may be over by the bar and musician. We sat back a bit, on the edge of the fountain. It was nice.

There’s a great farmer’s market on Wednesday morning and we’ve found our favorite coffee shop in the area named ‘Wake Up Marco’. It’s quiet and quaint. There has been an Antique Road Show (but we didn’t go), a Strawberry Festival (but we didn’t go) and an Art show. We’ve splurged on Cold Stone Ice Creamery twice – yummy! And we’ve gone for a lot of walks to the park and Bealls Outlet (my favorite store right now).

 The market is massive.

 Cheese vendor.

 The flowers are beautiful. There are probably five or more floral vendors.

 Dozens of fresh fruit and vegetable vendors all at good prices.

 And long lines.

 Jimi and I fell in love with the plants and of course, I bought a couple.

 This is the one Jimi wants, but he hasn't purchased it.

 Our score the second time we went.

And look at the name of this coffee - fitting.

We, however, are on the low end of the totem pole. This is a very rich area and we are a bit out of our league. We are surrounded by privately owned vacation condominiums, big yachts and power boats. We haven’t met any other cruisers here. We’ve seen some and talked briefly in passing, but it seems people typically stop through here for a night or two rather than staying like we have.
 This is the entrance to the Esplanade. It's full of shops and restaurants.  The second floor and up are the condos. The Bay to this is where Sanibel is anchored.

 See our tiny dinghy compared to the large yacht?

Eagle, fountain and Vet Memorial at the park.
 Jimi flying his drone.

 Supper on the grill.

This is the Art festival at the Esplanade.

Yesterday, we got word that a fulltime live-aboard friend of ours was involved in a boating accident. His body is missing and he’s presumed dead. His name is Farroh. We first met him five years ago in 2013 in Clarence Town of the Bahamas. At that time he was in his early sixties. He was born and raised in Iran. At the age of nineteen he came to the United States of America with his parents and started a new life. He went to college and became a Professor working at CU in Boulder, Colorado. And then he retired and began sailing the world by himself. We spent some time together and were practically inseparable. The last time we saw him, we were in Rum Cay. However, I kept in touch with him over the years via email. His son emailed me with the news and it breaks my heart to hear it. R.I.P Farroh, my friend.

While we've been here, Jimi has worked on the VHF antenna. Our reception wasn't as good as it should have been. He discovered that the cables had some water intrusion and needed to be replaced. In an attempt to replace the cable that runs down the mast, he discovered that our mast is filled with packing peanuts. This is common to ket the cable from rattling; however, he is not able to run a new cable down the mast now and has to come up with a new plan.

He also rebuilt the alternator. It quit after we left Marathon. He ordered the parts and got it all fixed up.

Every evening at 6-ish the Black Pearl comes by, loaded down with tourists singing the YMCA. The boat always stops at the apartment/condo where residents are waiting to sing with and cheer them on. 

We’ll head on to Fort Meyers Beach as soon as we get a weather window.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Cape Sable

The sail to Cape Sable from Marathon was absolutely the best we’ve had in a very long time. We had all three sails up, the seas were calm and the winds were light but steady. We left Marathon about 7am, averaging about 6 knots and dropped anchor in the middle cape of Cape Sable at 2 pm. I sat in the cockpit with Jimi the entire day (except for the tail end), which is highly unusual, as I normally stay below deck.

By 3pm the dinghy was in the water and we were on our way to shore for a quick look-see. We walked a little bit in each direction and poked around in the brush. A small sailboat anchored near Sanibel and two men from the vessel came to shore. They introduced themselves, we shook hands and then walked our separate ways. Jimi and I spent an hour on shore collecting our first batch of seashells and driftwood. We returned to Sanibel about 4pm. We had both been in the sun all day; we were hot and tired.

Our trip to shore was also our first time using our new dinghy. It will take some time for us to get used to the differences from our old dinghy. It’s incredibly lightweight. We have no problem pulling it up on shore. Its floor is aluminum versus our old one was fiberglass. The new dinghy, like our old, has inflatable tubes made from Hypalon; however, the new one is much deeper, so the step down when loading can be deceiving and the floor sits at a ‘v’ shape rather than flat. We’re not able to get up on plane with both of us aboard. This is a downside, and yet nothing we can’t deal with.

 A nice piece of driftwood.

 This is a barrell sponge. We found several of these.

 This looks like what's left of someone's tent. Appears to have been on fire.

After getting back to Sanibel, I had a really hard time adjusting that evening. I was almost in a depression. I told Jimi that I didn’t know what to do. I had no cell service or internet, therefore, I couldn’t text anyone, get on Facebook, watch Netflix, surf the web and had absolutely no contact with the world. It was me and Jimi and without an electronic device in my hand, I was lost. Anyhow, Jimi cooked us supper (I helped) and we sat in the cockpit eating during sunset. During dinner conversation, we talked about life on Sanibel outside the United States when we had no internet, cell phones or contact. Jimi reminded me that I was a book-reading-machine averaging at one to two books a week. And so it hit me – I would read during my downtime. After the dinner dishes were done I searched Calibri on my laptop and found that I have fifteen Nancy Drew books and all seven of the Harry Potter books. I was interested in Nancy Drew because they would be short quick reads and Harry Potter because I’ve always thought I wanted to read them, but never have. I loaded them on my tablet and began reading Harry Potter that evening. I finished the first book the day we left Cape Sable and was halfway through the second book when we arrived at Marco Island. I decided I would finish out the season getting back in to reading more and watching Netflix less.

Jimi was already reading a book on space shuttles and such. Of course, he doesn’t care to read fiction and always has something in his hand he’s reading.

The next morning we set out for a three-hour beachcombing. We dinghied a mile and a half or so – walked almost two hours stopping to collect shells and looking at other things before turning around. Jimi found a very large shell – 12 inches long – in perfect condition. We also found numerous sets of alligator tracks leading into the swampy area, dead crabs and horseshoe crabs and a lot of various sea sponges and plant life. I collected four bags of shells on this trip and one the night before. Returning to Sanibel, we ate hearty roast beef sandwiches and laid down to rest from the sun’s heat.

A catamaran anchored near us and the owner, a young many names Chris, came over to say hi. He sailed down from Pensacola and was on his way to Key Largo. Jimi and Chris chatted for a while and then met us on shore that evening. Jimi flew his drone, Chris watched in amazement and I soaked up the scenery. After sunset, I stayed on Sanibel and Jimi went to shore with Chris for some nighttime photography.

 Jimi picking up a horseshoe crab.

 Look closely and you can see a timy crab living on this shell.

 Yes, these are the real deal - gator tracks.

This tree is still standing.

The next morning Jimi noticed about fifteen feet of uncovered beach due to an extra low tide caused by the new moon. We hoped in the dinghy before breakfast in search of great finds that would normally be underwater. Unfortunately, we didn’t find anything.

By now, I was feeling the effects of the UV rays. For our next trip to shore that afternoon I was completely covered other than the tops of my feet and even then the heat was causing me some discomfort. I stayed close to the dinghy and even found a small piece of shade to sit under while Jimi did some more exploring in the brush. We didn’t stay too long but did go back just before sunset so Jimi could fly his drown and videotape the sunset. Despite being totally covered we were still walking smorgasbords for hungry vulturous flying critters.

When I woke Sunday, I was pretty much done. My muscles ached, mostly my neck. I told Jimi I’d had enough of the beach and needed a break – he agreed. I spent the morning cleaning the sand from my shells and preparing them for deep storage (I forgot to snap a picture before I put them away). Jimi told me the winds were good and we should sail about ten miles to Shark River. This gave us a head start towards Marco Island. We promptly prepared for the sail and left.

It was about a two-hour sail and then we stopped for the night. Monday we sailed 57 miles to Smokehouse Bay in Marco Island and here we’ll stay here until we decide to leave.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Boot Key Harbor of Marathon, Florida

On January 31st we finally arrived in Boot Key Harbor of Marathon, Florida.

Bob on s/v Windygo took these photos of us coming in.

As usual, there was a waiting list to get on a ball. Jimi added us to the list and from there we just waited. Jimi didn’t want to tear into the diesel engine until we were safely secured to a ball just in case we got a strong blow. However, after visiting with Bob a while, he suggested Jimi check the elbow exhaust. Jimi did just that and found that the elbow was literally completely clogged. With a chisel and several other tools, he cleared the elbow. What was once a small hole the size of a pencil is now a whopping two-inch circumference in the exhaust elbow. The diesel can breathe again.
 It’s not 100% confirmed this is the problem, but we do know that she has more power than she had before. We confident this will solve most of the issues we have been having with the engine.

We’ve been in Marathon for two weeks. We’ve eaten out with Bob a few times, gone for ice cream, to the grocery store, and on long walks. It’s nice to have a boat buddy. We recently hooked up with a couple we had met three years ago in St. Petersburg too, Duane and Jenn on s/v Proper Tease. We even enjoyed the Wednesday night free movies at the library and enrolled in a free short story writing class, which I’m sad to say we will miss out on.
 This is the mooring field.

 There are a lot of boats here.

 We're going to shore. Bob usually picks us up.

 This is the tiki hut on the left and then the long building is the marina office and day room .

 Since the old dinghy dock was destroyed from hurricane Irma, the boat dock area is now being used to dock dinghies.

 This is the only boat docking section left for use.

 This dinghy dock survived the hurricane, except I guess it was piled high with destroyed boats that had to be hauled off.

 This is the library. It's just a ten-minute walk from the marina. We watched the movies Pleasantville and The Purple Rose of Cairo on free movie nights.

 This is Bob on s/v Windygo.

 On our way out... this boat's sails are all ripped up.

 They call this the bridge to nowhere.

 Jimi says this is a good boat, it just needs some work.

 This is the fuel dock and restaurant upstairs known at Burdines. Their food is the best around.

 This sailboat caught my eye - it's pretty.

 Another fuel dock.

And we're off...

It took us half our season to get here. Half our season to be able to truly enjoy it – that time is now. We are back on island time and with only two and a half months left, we intend to make the most of it.
 Since the diesel is fixed, there was no need to get a ball and no need to stay longer. We decided to leave Marathon on the 15th for the next adventure.

We’re headed off the radar to Cape Sable for five days.