Beautiful marina with 2 Tiki Lounges and an easy walk into town where there are any good restaurants and shops.
Weather turned cold; 43 degrees with high winds. Waaah. We complain about the heat and humidity and then when climate changes to cool, we grumble. The Atlantic is gorgeous and vast, the water turquoise and clear. We will move up to Cocoa Beach tomorrow for a few days.
We have been in a slip at Legacy Harbour Marina, Fort Myers, Florida for 5 weeks. We knew going into this trip that we would be wintering in sunny, warm Florida until the season changed. We have rested and relaxed, and eaten in almost every café in this lovely city. It is an easy walk to Publix and into town.
Marinas are neighborhoods. We interact, we look after each other, we exchange information, we socialize, we share experiences, and ultimately, we get attached. As others leave for their homes north of here, and Loopers move toward the Atlantic, we must say, “Fare Well” and it hurts. We’ve met some charming, happy people. Will we meet again? No one can say. We exchange boat cards and promise to stay in touch, but inevitably as we all move on it is hard to stay in touch UNLESS we follow each other’s BLOGS.
It is time for Panacea to move on. We had planned to leave here March 1, but a severe wind alert kept us in safe harbor for another week. Now we plan to move up the Caloosahatchee River into and across Lake Okeechobee, then into the Atlantic Intercostal Waterway and eventually north to Cocoa Beach. Our middle daughter, Sarah K., and her husband live in Orlando and we will spend time with them before chasing the season north along the Atlantic.
This is an exciting time for us. We completed the rivers portion of the Great Loop and lazed in tropical southern Florida, now it’s finally time to complete our odyssey. This northern tract is the most exciting as we will be catching a rocket launch in Canaveral, cruising the Chesapeake shores, anchoring behind the Statue of Liberty and attending a Yankees game in New York City before traveling up the Hudson into the Erie Canal. Amazing.
Florida is crowded. Large populations, especially in the winter when all us Snow Birds cram the marinas and roadways. There are enormous bridges crisscrossing every waterway. The noise of traffic is ever present. I’m a country girl, population and traffic are an offense to all my senses; I am deliberate to avoid it and desperate to escape it.
March 8, 2017…LaBelle…City Warf
This morning we left Fort Myers, and traveled the Caloosahatchee River east to Labelle, FL where we anchored at the city warf. Traffic noise from the overhead highway bridge was so thunderous we couldn’t deal with it. So, after a nice lunch at Forrey Grille we move to the local park docks. There were two alligators cruising the shore around us. The docks are short and fixed (they do not float with the tide) requiring Joan and Inky to exit the boat through the bow hatch. Inky panics, Joan becomes a contortionist; all part of the experience.
Late afternoon after securing the boat to the docks, we took an exploratory dinghy ride up river where we noticed a Black Angus calf standing alone belly deep in the river at the shoreline. It just seemed odd so we cruised closer to find a 7-foot alligator cruising nearby. Our wake caused it to dive and we could then see that the calf was in distress. After determining that Inky was secure and the gator well away, Don pulled onto shore and Joan climbed out to investigate. The poor little creature was blind in both eyes and had been attacked, possibly by a panther judging from the open wounds on its flanks. It allowed me to approach and stroke its head and neck, but when I grasped its ears to encourage it up the embankment it balked in fear and swam toward the gator. What a rodeo. I finally ran a quarter mile up the hill to a neighbor who followed me back and after three of us making another effort to bring the beast to land decided to contact Animal Control, at which point we got back into the dinghy and made our way back to Panacea with heavy hearts. Poor creature. As I ponder what more we could possibly have done, I had to accept we had done all we could, short of taking it home with us. In retrospect, we had only two choices: provide comfort until the merciful end by man’s hand, or just close our eyes and drive on by. I will NOT sleep well tonight.
March 9, 2017…Clewiston
After a quick breakfast, we departed LaBelle for Clewiston. Nice trip along the Okeechobee Waterway, an 8-foot-deep trench that winds through farmland, sugar cane plantations, and cattle ranches. It was beautiful and put me in mind of cruising the Snake River. Ahhh. There’s no place like home. Idaho is paradise!
We arrived early afternoon and entered the marina through 30 foot?? seawall gates that remain open until there is a looming catastrophe caused by flooding from a storm surge when strong winds drive water over the mud dikes that circle the lake.
The Rowland-Martin Marina had floating docks and a great Tiki Bar. We took a long dinghy ride out on Lake Okeechobee. We saw many alligators basking on the shoreline and walking on the islands. Huge dragons. Scary.
March 10, 2017….Indiantown
After a huge breakfast at the Rowland Martin Marina in Clewiston we headed for the open water across Lake Okeechobee (the canal route along the southern shore was closed for construction) intending to enter the St. Lucie Waterway via Port Mayaca Lock. The lock was wide open and we passed through quickly on our way to Forrest River Marina, however arriving at Indiantown we found that the railroad bridge was closed for repairs. We dropped anchor in the canal along with other stranded boats on both sides of the bridge, and waited for news of the bridge reopening. Late afternoon Indiantown Marina, which had previously been booked, called to say they had an opening for us so we spent a peaceful night tied to floating docks with electricity and Wi-Fi and showers. Great place for Inky too. We have our own personal alligator too.
While fishing off the boat Don caught a big bass and as he reeled it in 2 alligators zoomed in to snatch it off the line, a fight ensured then ended with a 10 minute gator stand-off.
March 11, 2017…the bridge opened and we are moving on..
Sad news. My laptop was infected with Ransomware. I lost all my photos from the entire trip. GONE. Also, all my documents, including those for tax reporting. As I’m reeling from this blow, my flesh looks for someone to hate, to blame. I must LET IT GO. No one died. I’ll take more pictures. I WILL NEVER again open any social media sights which are notorious for Ransomware. So sad.
My last post was made while moored at Marker 1 Marina in Dunedin, FL. We stayed there December 13 through January 15. Dunedin was charming. Lots to see and do: Art Fairs, Farmer’s Markets, Parades, Mutt Meets etc. We bought folding bikes that enabled us to travel far from the marina. Living on a boat without a vehicle we are unable to get to town for doctors or groceries or hardware. The bikes gave us great freedom with mobility, although leaving Inky aboard we could not be away longer than 3 or 4 hours. We spent Christmas with Don’s sweet sister, Debbie and her handsome, solid, sons. She’s a great hostess, cook, and friend.
Joan went home for a few days in January to have low back treatments. Didn’t get much visiting due to “Snowmageddon”. The roads were horrid. I’ll have surgery next fall when we end our trip.
Gulfport Marina, Gulfport, FL. Floating docks but no laundry, no internet, and road construction alongside our dock made a great marina a negative experience. It’s an older town on the bay with lots of fun shops and cafe’s. We finally got to enjoy our dinghy again. (Remember we lost our dinghy motor crossing the open Gulf in hard seas, and didn’t get the replacement until late January at Marker 1). HUGE hassle.
Marina Jack, Sarasota, Florida. Large, full service marina. No other Loopers here. Many Ultra Yachts. Great Cafe’s. We spent most hot afternoons at O’Leary’s Tiki Bar with great food and fruit drinks adjacent to the marina where we walked Inky and he could chase squirrels. Floating docks too. Expensive, lots of services. Nice showers and toilets. Excellent restaurant.
Sarasota is the winter home of Ringling Brothers Circus. Today, it hosts a number of cultural institutes. Numerous high-end shops and trendy cafe’s. Huge Saturday Market with numerous musicians. Expensive. Not bike friendly. Marie Selby Botanical Gardens were fabulous. Orchids of every variety and size…amazing.
Palm Island Marina, Boca Grande, FL. Small, beautiful marina with huge outdoor pool and hot tub. Excellent showers and toilets. Lovely restaurant, Leverdocks, which brings folks from all around. Quiet, calm, very dog friendly. Fixed docks are a challenge, but they were wide and tides were reasonable while there. Town is a 15-minute Uber ride to Boca Grande. Rum Bay Restaurant across the Intercostal Waterway has great beaches and walking paths. We met a lovely couple, Charles and Dorothy (not Loopers) and hope to see them again.
Paradise Marina, Fort Myers, Florida on the Caloosahatchee River. Very isolated. We chose it because we like quiet and dark, but it was a bit toooooo salty. Older and removed from any amenities, without a vehicle we would have been stranded. Stayed only one night.
Legacy Harbour Marina, Fort Myers, FL. Very high-end. Very nice. Excellent amenities, and dog friendly. Big outdoor pool too. Many enormous ships, larger boats, and a few small craft. Everyone is lovely. Only down side: a LONG walk to shore. But, our view is breathtaking. Really, we have the best moorage in the place. Don’s brother, Doug and sister-in-law, the fabulous Karen, came for a visit. We took the fast boat to Key West with them. Way too much fun.
While dining outside in town last night Don overheard a group enter the restaurant saying, “Nobody knows where Idaho is.” Don piped up that WE knew. Laughing I turned around to see former Governor and Secretary of the Interior under President Carter, Cecil Andrus smiling in our direction. I jumped up like a teen groupie and threw my arms around him. so happy to see an Idahoan, and WHAT an Idahoan he is. Although a Democrat (sorry) he devoted his life to wilderness and public land protection. It was a thrill. The vast majority of snow birds here are from Canada, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and New York. All northerners are escaping the cold. It is hard to visualize extreme cold when we are sweating under 80% humidity in 83 degree temps…ahhhhhh.
After leaving Port St. Joe we intended to take a slip at Apalachicola, but from the water the place was not inviting, plus we had rough water and stiff winds that make for laying alongside the docks a chore so we bypassed it and moved farther east on the panhandle to Carrabelle. Coming out into open water we encountered a channel dredge pushing a giant tube filled with the sand it plowed up to deposit elsewhere out of the channel. We were forced to hug tight to their process through a quarter mile of dredging in 2 feet of water. Harrowing.
Carrabelle is a beautiful harbor with numerous marinas lining its deeper east side. We watched a lighted boat parade and the marina fed us Low Country Boil, consisting of shrimp, sausage, red potatoes, and cob corn boiled together in seasoned water in a huge pot. Another sad town beaten by continuous hurricanes. We spent two nights due to nasty weather in the open Gulf. The Gulf crossing is a serious matter to Loopers. Weather can quickly change so we all monitor sail flow, tide tables, winds and waves and when the sea looks favorable we take off. Sometimes it’s a night crossing.
We had planned to leave the panhandle and cruise across open water to Steinhatchee, but the water turned too rough and we pulled up short into Miller’s Gateway Marina at Suwannee River.
From Suwannee River we drove our last leg to Marker 1 Marina in dense fog. It was a long anxious day! This marina is large and popular. We had reserved a slip 3 months prior to arrival, but it was not available so they put us on the outside wall where we are subject to rolling seas and fixed docks. Many mornings during extreme low tide we had to crawl out of the boat. Don had to lift Inky up and over. The dock was so high we could stand in Panacea and look under the dock to the boats inside the marina across from us. Marker 1 is in Dunedin, Florida, a lovely busy town with numerous shops displaying local artist’s creations. Very unusual. Great food everywhere. Lots of tourist attractions. Dolphins play around our boat.
12.1.16 Left Eastern Shores, Fairhope, Alabama on December 1st and headed into Florida waters. Spent 1 night at The Warf at Gulf Shores, then 2 days in Orange Beach, 2 days in Pensacola, then 2 days in Sandestin, 1 night in night in Panama City, 1 night in Port St. Joe, 2 nights in Carrabelle….Whew.
Heading east out of Mobile Bay we entered the Intercoastal Waterway (ICW), a watercourse consisting of natural inlets, saltwater rivers, bays, and artificial canals. It provides a navigable route along its length without many of the hazards of travel on the open sea. This route can narrow into a sheltered, protected route that cuts inland through a constricted, shallow trough that is commonly called “the ditch” and goes through many miles of desolate sections without any sign of civilization on shore. Meeting or passing a barge in the ditch is tricky due to shallow water restrictions near shore. We rely on navigational aids which appear as green or red cans or Dayboards with red triangles or green squares mounted on submerged poles or pilings in deep water.
12.1.16…The Warf in Gulf Shores was fantastic. Very modern. Lots of high-end shops and trendy restaurants. Few small boats here, most are million dollar yachts with full crews. Seeing dolphins regularly now.
12.2.16…Orange Beach Marina was beautiful. End of season allowed us to have the place to ourselves. Large marina with numerous sport fishing tower boats and each one immaculate.
12.3.16…Palafox Marina at Pensacola was a great. We parked on the water’s edge and could see the Blue Angels overhead as well as numerous other aircraft doing maneuvers. Attended the Annual Christmas Pageant downtown just a few steps from our marina. Ate dinner at a Greek restaurant and hookah bar. Hilarious. Eat on one side and smoke on the other.
12.5.16…Baytown Marina at Sandestin, FL was very “salty” (fewer cruise ships, more shrimp boats). An older marina, but well-kept and beautifully maintained. There were a few giant yachts looking for entertainment in the nearby new mall with exclusive shops. The Marina village was charming with lots of cute shops and eateries. Christmas decorations festooned every inch of every street and shop.
Very nice facility, but the docks were “fixed”, not floating, and that made it very difficult for Joan and Inky to climb in and out of the boat. Fixed docks do not move up and down with the tides so at high tide we might need to leap 2 feet up and over the boat rail, then jump over and down to get back in. Joan and Inky don’t jump too well anymore. It is not fun. No sooner had we arrived than a cold front moved in. We were under a severe storm watch all night with possible tornado. The winds harassed the boats while thunder rolled and lightening crashed. It was exhilarating, but rained so hard that Don continuously fought wind and driving rain to bail gallons of water from the dinghy throughout the night. Next day was cloudy, but still so windy we all had nausea.
12.7.16…50 miles to Panama City and St. Andrew’s Marina. Nice here with mostly fishing boats. Historic old town, fighting commercialization, are determined to keep their village small, and quaint.
12.9.16….40 miles Port St. Joe. We entered another “ditch” and arrived on calm seas. Nice marina with good facilities. Fixed docks required Joan and Inky to climb out again. Harrumph. Cooler today. 58 midday will drop to 35 tonight. Locals say this is unusual, and according to them this entire year has seen weird weather in the south.
12.10.16 Carrabelle, FL
Our final port before we make the crossing. Stayed 2 nights waiting on a fair weather report before heading out to sea. We were treated to the annual Carrabelle Christmas Parade of decorated & lighted boats. It was delightful. Our marina also provided a “low country boil” consisting of shrimp, sausage, cob corn, and red potatoes cooked together in a huge pot with spices.
We are lying in Eastern Shores Marina, Mobile Bay, at Fairhope, Alabama. We have been here nearly 2 weeks and spent Thanksgiving Day with Don’s ex-wife and family; lovely home, lovely people, excellent food.
We are experiencing tidal weather. Each morning I rise early and with Inky trot to the beach to see what treasures the waves have delivered. Today the shoreline was littered with dozens of pecans, and by sunset they had vanished to be replaced with shards of broken glass and polished stones. One sunrise I retrieved 20 golf balls, many with the insignia of the private club on which they were played. Here in the Bay we do not get the pretty shells seen on ocean shores, but every sunrise the sand reveals a new assortment of trophies. Golly it is fun. Many days are spent sitting on the beach gazing at the distant shore remembering the miles of river we traveled to get here.
Most boats moored in a marina are vacant; their owners visit occasionally, but every marina has permanent residents who live on their boats full time. Some commute to work. Most are retired. Most never drive their boats. Some decorate their dock with potted plants and hanging baskets while others never come outside. They pay a monthly fee based on boat length ( 1 or 2 dollars a foot). So, for about $400 they get power, toilets and showers, laundry facilities, use of a courtesy car, unlimited fresh water, and a private beach! I wonder if they resent having to share such comforts with us transients. One Local asked if we knew the difference between a Yankee and a Damned Yankee. Answer: the Yankee visits and then goes back home!
In the wee hours before sunrise owls begin their calls. We wonder what they might scare up for food. There are numerous oak trees that drop billions of acorns each day, but we see very few squirrels. Odd. Don ventures that Southerners eat them. We see marina cats, but by nightfall they are well hidden. Inky is quite agitated by one very old cat. Chuck is said to be 17 years of age and has spent his life here. Inky loves to run at him full force, but Chuck unimpressed stands his ground and Inky veers off at the last second before Chuck can deliver a slashing blow. Yesterday Chuck was fed up and charged Inky who slinked away like the true coward he is. The marina crew are quite entertained by this daily skirmish and cheer when Chuck gets the best of our fat Labrador.
Temperatures remain in the high 60’s. It is hard to imagine snow in Idaho, but I can see from computer down link of our Idaho news stations that it is truly winter. What comfort we take from access to the World Wide Web. We can “see” what is going on anywhere in the world. Some days, when I ache for home, I dial in my permanent address on Google Earth and look at my house. It gives me great pleasure to recall where I belong. We are on a grand adventure, but like Dorothy, “there’s no place like home”. Nights when sleep eludes me, I walk in my imagination through the rooms of my house or my grandparent’s house, recalling every detail on every wall.
Sunsets over water on flat horizon are spectacular!! The sun truly disappears from view and sinks below the surface of the earth. It is gone in an instant, but first it produces a fanfare of color; each evening more dramatic than the one preceding. The clouds above are colossal and quixotic revealing extravagant hues and shadow as they swirl and float across the darkening sky.