A Week on the Loop - Southwest Florida
In one week we've seen incredible variety that makes up Florida's Southwest coast. It's been beautiful.
We left 3 days at anchor at Pelican Bay for two nights at an upscale marina at Cape Coral. We purchased Currently in Cape Coral and made the stop to pick up some paperwork and to see our broker. A delightful side benefit was a chance to visit with friends we played leapfrog with from the TennTom to Florida. We were always within a day in the same area, but never at the same marina. Brad and Kristin (on Altitude Adjustment) came to pick us up at Tarpon Point Marina to schlep us to thel laundromat. Tarpon Point Marina is a gorgeous place. We got a transient slip between two MASSIVE yachts - both somewhere between 70-100 feet long. Our little Ranger Tug R-29 was the SMALLEST boat in the entire marina. It's a strange feeling to be walking past these immaculate and large boats carrying a laundry bag full of dirty clothes or a shower bag to use the onsite public shower.
After spending a lovely time with Brad and Kristin - not just laundry - we ate lunch at the Westin's Nauti Mermaid. We also saw our broker and his wife - and promptly had them join us in front of the Westin to take delivery of our Instacart order from Publix. Another odd feeling to be schlepping bags and bags of groceries through the lobby of the Westin. But we did it and then headed back to the Nauti Mermaid to catch up. Adi has been a boater for years, Steve was part of the Royal Navy, they've lived in the Virgin Islands and have cruised all over. It was so fun to share stories and get some pointers from more experienced boaters! I went back to the boat and ordered her recommended hair and sunscreen products.
After Cape Coral we caught up with other Looper friends in Naples. I sort of imagine Naples is to Florida what Rodeo Drive is to California. Our friends Laura and Mark on Wild Life anchored near a neighborhood on the way to the city dock. In the morning they checked Zillow for home prices - $24M and up. Truly. I went for a walk from the city dock the next morning. Even the women out exercising in the looked stylish. I wished I'd brushed my hair before I threw it in a ponytail. My wired earbuds were so 2000...but I enjoyed the walk, the beautiful fashion in the windows and on the streets and the incredible blooming flowers. How lovely to find summer in winter!
After Naples, we visited Marco Island and anchored in Smokehouse Bay for 2 nights. It was the first time we ever grocery shopped by dinghy. The local Winn Dixie has a dinghy dock for boaters - how awesome is that! We also met a few loopers in the harbor - Kevin and Karen on Indigo and Chris and Roger on Betty Gail and met at a local restaurant for appetizers to share boating stories and info. It's so helpful to hear about other places Loopers have loved and enjoyed. We weren't sure when we'd be near a Volvo Penta dealer again, so the next morning we docked the dinghy at the nearby marina and walked with the doggo to the marine store. About a mile later, we were on our way back to the boat, filters in the backpack and carrying 3 gallons of oil. Seriously we were a sight. I spied a Chase Bank and ran into get $30 in quarters for coin operated laundry machines. WHY aren't they converted to read debit cards yet? So adding the rolls of quarters to the back pack we were on our way again. This week we were pleased to challenge the limits of the dinghy with groceries, engine parts and us!
Leaving Marco Island, we took Karen's suggestion and headed to Russell Pass for our first night anchoring in the Everglades. It feels so primeval there. So raw and wild. We used the giant bug net over the cockpit - no seeums and mosquitos are a problem here. We used the dingy to go around the mangroves - no alligators this time. We had dolphins in our cove and took a dingy ride at sunset. So quiet and peaceful. The second night in the Everglades we were at Shark River. I rode on the bow of the boat as we traveled inland on the river a bit. It was exhilarating and felt like a jungle cruise. At times we were completely alone - occasionally we'd be passed by a fishing boat but for the most part, it was really cool to be so small in such a huge place. I imagined how easy it would be to disappear in there! Scary! We also saw many birds- heron, pelicans, ibis. After we got settled at the anchorage, we took the dinghy into some side rivers with mangroves. Still no alligators, but we turned around when we thought we might not find our way back if we made another turn and every stump I saw started to look like and alligator. We met up again with Indigo at the anchorage and made plans for the crossing to Bahia Honda State Park in the Keys.
The crossing to the keys was beautiful and exhausting. Much harder than the crossing of the Gulf of Mexico. This time we had some wind and waves (1-2 feet waves and swells) and a lot of crab pots to contend with. Luckily, Indigo has a fly bridge and we followed them across the Gulf and Florida Bay. We'd see them turn right or left and know to watch out for the crab pots and lines. Funny thing about crab pots in the Gulf - when we first started planning, we heard all the warnings - watch out for the crab pots, they can tangle in the prop, lines have to be cut, etc. BUT what we didn't know or hear about is how to navigate them! The first time we encountered them on our Gulf crossing with Sam, we were terrified to go over the lines for fear of catching them with our prop. It was all hands and eyes on deck. We'd drive parallel to the lines, trying to navigate between rows and rows. It was a nightmare. There can be so many it looks like a minefield. Well, it turns out you CAN go between the pots. You have to go two thirds between them on the downwind side. That's a bit of KEY info. So, traveling with our "buddy boat" Indigo, we learned so much about getting around these floating traps! (**this only works with these crab pots. Evidently, in other parts of the country you cannot go between the pots because they are connected with a floating horizontal line.) We made it to Bahia Honda State Park - what a spot!! Inexpensive, right next to the beach and you get a free bag of ice and two drinks from the concession every day you are at the park. Great deal! This is a pic from our galley window in the morning.
I've never spent any time in Florida. It's really an amazing state and we are both feeling grateful to be seeing it by boat! It's hard to believe but now we start our trek North and East! We expect to be at the top of Florida's Eastern coast by April 3rd.
Six weeks into this adventure, being a traveler has made me more curious about travelers - about stories, about history, about struggles. I used to think that the folks walking or biking on MLK in Chatt needed transportation, until we started walking or biking to church that way. I've backpacked laundry half a mile walking my dog. I've sat on the sidewalk while the laundry was getting done. I've run out of quarters for laundry. I've biked to get groceries. I've walked to get boat parts. I used to look at people in some mismatched clothes or those who carry groceries and think they might not be like me. Now, I hope I see our similarities and just wonder where they are going.