Friday, November 27, 2015

Cape Haze to Ft Myers Beach

I was up at 0430 so I could get the boat ready to leave as soon as we had any light. Paula was up at 0600. As first light crept in at 0645 we pulled in the anchor and got underway. Stylist left about 15 minutes later.

The wind was light, as we hoped. But it was forecast to climb to 20-25 knots today. We just hoped that did not happen until we got across Charlotte Harbor.

Within minutes of leaving the anchorage we had a swing bridge to go through. There was only 9' clearance so he had to open. But they were building a newer, somewhat higher swing bridge parallel to the old on. That one had a bit over 25' of clearance. The bridge tender asked the minimum clearance I required. I answered that I could lower the big VHF antennas and get it down to 24' 10". He replied they would not open the new bridge as I could fit under it. We had a few very tense moments as I eased up to it to see if the mast would clear it. We did, with only a few inches to spare. This was nerve racking and I was glad I would not have to repeat it today. The only other bridge we had to go under today was a fixed bridge with 26' clearance, so I knew I could get under that one.

We proceeded down the ICW and arrived at Charlotte Harbor in short order. The wind was up to 10-15 knots out of the NE, and the harbor has 12 miles of fetch in that direction. It was a bit choppy, but not too bad... yet.

Paula decided to make breakfast before it got too bad. Sausage biscuits. She got the oven going for the biscuits and started frying the sausage. As we pushed further in the open waters of the harbor, we moved out of the protection of the northern shore and got exposed to the full 12 mile fetch. Things started getting exciting. We were taking 3-4' seas right on the beam; the worst possible direction. The boat was rolling side to side pretty good now. Paula complained that the pan with biscuits was sliding side to side in the oven. Bless her heart, she toughed it out and shortly we had delicious homemade biscuits with spicy pork sausage patties. Greasy goodness!!

We reached the midway point and thought we were seeing the worst of it. It was uncomfortable but we only had to tolerate it for another 30 minutes or so. As we neared the other side of the harbor the water started to get shallower. That caused the waves to get much steeper, and to start breaking. Now we were REALLY rolling. Bob on Stylist called to say that they had just rolled almost 30 degrees. We were both ready to get out of this. We finally entered the channel behind a shoal and the seas instantly dropped to nothing.

We arrived in Ft. Myers Beach around 1230 and proceeded to Snook Bight Marina to take on fuel and water. We had to pass through the mooring field where we planned to spend the night, then down a long narrow channel. No wake, of course. It took us a while to get down to the marina. Once there it was a madhouse. They do pontoon boat rentals, and this being a holiday for most folks there were pontoon boats all over the place. None with an experienced operator. It took me several attempts to pull into the fuel dock as pontoon boats kept zipping past between the dock and me. The strong wind was pushing me towards the dock and it was difficult to keep from running into these nut cases buzzing around me.

Once we finally made it to the dock we took on 433 gallons of fuel and 70 gallons of water. Paula took the trash out and took Duke for a walk while I fueled. Once we were done I had the task of getting the boat off the dock. No easy feat getting a 60,000 lb. boat pinned to the dock by a 30 knot wind, with pontoon boats moored two feet in front of and behind me. I had the dock hand move my bow line to a cleat about midway back to the stern, then cast off the stern line. I put the rudders hard to port and powered ahead. The bow pulpit was over the pontoon boat as the stern swung out in the channel. Once out far enough I put it in reverse and the dock hand cast off the bow line. I reversed hard and pulled away from the dock. Whew, glad that's over!

We went back to the mooring field and were told the just pick a ball then call and let them know which we tied to. #54 was on the edge of the field and easy to get to so we grabbed that one. Once tied up the current and wind were going in opposite directions, which caused the boat to sit sideways and sometimes swing over the top of the mooring ball. It did not settle down until the current reversed later that afternoon.

Bob & Gail arrived a short while later and took the mooring ball next to us. Bob lowered his dink and kindly offered to take us where ever we needed to go so we did not have to lower ours. So Bob & I took off to go the office of the Matanzas Inn, which managed the mooring field. We paid the $16 fee for one night and asked for directions to a grocery store.  Bob and  I both had a list of a few things the ladies needed.

Penny, the manager, informed us there were two grocery stores accessible by boat. The first was Top's nearby, the other was Publix back down at Snook Bight Marina. I wish I had known the Publix was there; Paula could have made a grocery run while I fueled the boat. Top's is only accessible down a canal through the mangroves. We tried to find it but couldn't. So we made the long, slow run back to the marina. It was a wet ride, too.

When we got to the marina we asked where the Publix was located. In our parking lot was the answer. Sure enough, as soon as stepped out the front door there it was. This was the shortest walk to a grocery store yet!  We got everything on our list, plus a few extra goodies. Back in the dink for the long, wet ride back to the boat. All told we had been gone 2-1/2 hours, most of that putt-putting through the no wake zones.

We would be going our separate ways tomorrow, so Bob & Gail invited us over for our "last supper". Gail cooked a wonderful meal, and we sat on the back deck laughing and chatting until we all decided we had had enough to drink. It was time for Bob to ferry us home while he still could.

Tomorrow we have to start running offshore the rest of the way to the Keys, about 125 miles. The ICW turns inland at Ft. Myers, and there is no protected channels from here on. We'll just have to pick our weather windows.



1 comment:

Scott Kolek said...

We need more pictures to go with the adventures. :) Maybe even video, mount a GoPro to the top of the boat, then edit the video to make a full day boat trip go by in seconds. :)